بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم
From the book ‘Ma’ariful Qur’an’ Volume 1 by Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ (Rahimahullah), may be accessed from the following link. For the translation of the Qur’an by the editor/translator of this exegesis of the Qur’an, the following link may be accessed.
Foreword by Mufti Taqi Usmani (Hafidhahulla)
A Few Words about the present English Translation of Ma’ariful-Qur’an
o One of the first things pointed out is our need to notice that many (if not most) of the commentaries of the Qur’an were written by those people who may have had good knowledge of the English language, but they were lacking in Islamic knowledge. Indeed, many of the first English translations of the Qur’an were written by non-Muslims, and certain people did their translations as a way of demeaning Islam. Others, they looked down on the Qur’an, or they did a “critical rearranging” of the Suras based on their own ideas.
o We also have the case of the Lahori Qadiani translation, which was one of the first translations done by a self-declared Muslim (even though we obviously do not agree with the appellation of Qadianis as Muslims, but this is outside the scope of this discussion). There is also the case of Yusuf Ali, who had a very good command of the English language, but who does from time to time commit ideological errors.
o The author hints quite strongly that the principles of Tafsir have to be adhered to in the course of conducting the interpretation. Such a thing is immediately recognizable by a discerning mind, for the simple reason that all transmitted knowledge rests on trusting that some principles are at work. Obviously, our readers would be unable to read this very sentence if they did not firmly understand that there are rules in the English language that should be adhered to in spoken and written English. If this is the case with a simple sentence, what about the revelation from the Lord of the Worlds?
o We see then that the claims of those who say that anyone can pick up, read, and then fully interpret the Qur’an are based on nothing but the ruminations of the disbelievers. And this is definitely so, since it was from the Protestant “Reformation” and its relationship with the Bible that a view entered the human conscience, that the scholars were hiding knowledge from people and that the layman had the potential to uncover the truth by his own efforts.
o But this was the case with Catholicism, and such parallels can never be made with Islamic scholarship. After all, in Christianity, there are many problems right from the outset with their sacred texts and their theology, and whichever way the interpretation is made, the core problems will still remain.
Translation of the Holy Qur’an
o The difficulty in translating the Qur’an is also mentioned. What is interesting is that Arthur Arberry’s statement that the Qur’an at the end is totally untranslatable is presented. There are some difficulties peculiar to the English language itself, since its structure is such that it cannot convey the full meaning of many Arabic phrases and even words without seeming artificial.
o The students of Arabic will definitely know the trouble one has to go in order to translate (for example) the word اسْتَنْصَرُوكُمْ [normal translation: they seek your help] But this normal translation has two separate problems: First of all, the they is of the masculine plural (3 or more) format, and the your is also masculine plural. If we try to put it in a more literal way, it would be “they all (many males) seek your (many males) help”, but this is very artificial within the structure of the English language. However, in Arabic this is perfectly normal and no separate provisions have to be made for it.
o This is also why the claims of some that the Qur’an’s challenge (for producing something like it) can be met in the English language are incorrect, since English has very little declension, and in order to convey the exact and full meanings, it will need many more words, plus a substrate of artificiality that will destroy the flow of the language itself, while these problems do not arise in the Arabic idiom.
o Next is an introduction to certain preliminary information we must keep in mind concerning the Qur’an. These had been published by Mufti Taqi Usmani (Hafidhahullah) in the book “Uloom al-Quran”, which may be accessed under the title “An Approach to the Qur’anic Sciences” (It is a rather large file, so this is to be kept in mind). In here only a synopsis of some salient features are presented.
Wahy and its true nature
The need for Wahy
o First of all, we need to understand “Wahy” and the need for “Wahy” (revelation). [Some may say that “revelation” maps onto the word “Tanzil” better, but we will follow the author/translator in this regard].
o The Muslim knows that Allah has placed him on Earth as a matter of test, and in return the whole Universe has been placed at his service. Now, some may say that this view of the Universe is problematic, since it leads to the destruction of the ecosystem and degradation of other living creatures.
o In order to answer this, we need to keep two issues in mind. Firstly, the rules of Sharia [that is, the guidelines to successfully pass the test presented before us] tell is that we are to treat all living creatures with kindness and justice. The Protestant “work ethic” whereby it is accepted to accumulate worldly possessions and this is considered as a matter of piety is not really shared so uncritically by the Islamic ethos. This is important, since it is mostly through the assumption of “unimpeded economic progress” that the Earth’s ecosystem is thrown out of balance. So a well-rounded application of Sharia would not lead to inordinate accumulation of worldly possessions nor to the related disruption of the Earth’s ecosystem.
o This is one thing. However, we also need to keep in mind the other extreme, held by certain non-Muslim groups, which consider the lives of animals (or of certain animals) to be so sacred so as to be divine. This, of course, is normally due to the mistaken belief in panentheism (or pantheism), where it is held that all matter has a “spark of divinity” in it, and that due to this so-called reality, we are to raise animals on the pedestal of “divinity”.
o Islam also rejects this second view, since we do not accept the premises of panentheism, and we believe that the Divine Being cannot be reduced to an impersonal substrate “hiding” behind the “dream of the apparent Universe”. In any case, this angle would require a lengthier discussion in another article/work, but for the time being we need to understand that there are extremes with respect to the relationship between man and his environment, and that Islam steers clear from such extremes.
o Next, comes the important statement that in order for man to carry out the exigencies of the test given to him by Allah, he needs to use: (a) his reason (b) his bodily senses and (c) the Wahy, the revelation given to those whom Allah has selected.
o It is important that use be made of all these three blessings Allah has given to mankind. We can see the benefit of the senses and of reason even when someone asks: “Do you not know that Hadith such-and-such and Verse number such-and-such establish this obligation?” Such a case seems to only be connected to the Wahy [or at most to the extension of the Wahy in the form of Ahadith].
o But obviously, without our sense of hearing, we would not have been able to receive this information in our minds at all. Also, without our brains working properly, there would be no way in which we could have understood anything of the information given to us. Thus, if someone was addressing a deaf man, then he would necessarily have to make use of sign language or some other means for conveying the information to him. Also, there would be no point at all in talking about Islamic obligations to a person suffering from psychosis, since the obligations are lifted from the insane person.
o Note that we are not at all denigrating Wahy, only saying that it is one of the needed components for humans to reach true felicity by means of carrying out whatever their Lord has commanded them to carry out. We also see that the bodily senses and reasoning have their limits. The example given in the Tafsir is that, to know the color of a wall we will need to see it, since our minds will only know that there are a number of possibilities for its color, but it will not be able to conclusively tell us which one of these options is correct. Also, if we wish to know who constructed this wall, merely touching it or looking at it with a piercing look cannot help us much. No, we need to reason that there was a builder, workers, and so on. [If we wish to go further and know the exact identity of these people, then we will need to carry out further investigations, such as calling the construction company, a so on… basically collaboration between our bodily senses and our minds.
o But, suppose now someone wishes to know how this wall will be used for the sake of Allah. For this, only Wahy will be of help. And the Sunnah of Allah is to send Wahy to one servant from among the Creation, and give unquestionable miracles to him, so that people will believe in him, or rather have no reasonable grounds on which to deny this Messenger.
o Of course, this question presupposes the existence of Allah the Exalted, which is why our ‘Ulama have mentioned that one should first be sure that the opponent has a proper understanding about Allah the Exalted before talking to him about the miracle of the Qur’an or the Prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ.
o It is very much possible that an atheist might flip just by listening to the Qur’an or seeing the Muslims in prayer, etc., but we are talking in here about the normal way in which things happen. We also do not want for a situation to unfold where (for example) a Christian enthusiastically says that he wishes to convert to Islam, takes the Shahada, but continues believing that Jesus is the son of God. Such a belief would immediately ruin his Iman and annul his testimony of faith; so we should be careful in balancing the obligation of conveying the message with the need that people understand what Islam is to begin with.
o Back to the discussion about Wahy, reason, and the senses, we also need to remember that just as reason cannot help by itself in knowing colors of walls, so it is limited in understanding the “Hikma” (wisdom) behind many of the rulings of the Sharia given through Wahy, as well as (sometimes) not even being able to comprehend the mysteries of Divine Predestination or other metaphysical issues. Even when there are purely deductive answers from Muslim scholars, experience shows that it is better for most people not to even delve into such answers, since they may take wrong meanings from it [or rather, they may superimpose their own assumptions on such answers, thereby reducing or nullifying the true intent of such answers].
o We then come up to the issue that Allah has instituted the system of revelation and Messengership in order to grant guidance to human beings. Mufti Usmani (HA) presents it as a rational need (in that a Wise Creator would not leave the thinking creatures He creates without giving them guidance). There may be a certain objection to this, by saying that the existence of Allah does not necessitate His sending of Prophets and Messengers, or of any guidance whatsoever. What is perhaps being alluded to in by the Mufti is simply a phrase in order for us to better understand the issue and the rationality of revelation – that even without considering the miracles of the Prophets and the philosophy behind them, we can still see that it is very much possible and proper that revelation would be sent to mankind.
o And this is a point that, once we establish the existence of Allah without any doubt, is something which has to be considered by our adversary. The reason is that we Muslims are not talking about a “Deist” entity, or a very far removed “First Principle” (as in Aristotle’s thought) who does not even have any knowledge of what is happening in the world [that is, we reject the notion of a Creator or creates accidentally or without knowledge]. Rather, when we determine that Allah creates the bodies and the events in the Universe at every single moment, it is only natural that we would turn our thoughts as to whether Allah has sent a series of Prophets and Messengers, as well as how we would come to know the true from the false claimants of Prophethood.
o Since the wisdom of Allah is yet again tied to the reality of revelation, I have to say that Allah does indeed create things with wisdom, and that the effects of this wisdom are apparent on His creatures [such as the obedient slaves entering Paradise]. However, we do not say that such things are “obligatory” on Allah. That is, it is hypothetically possible that Allah may have created a Universe full of thinking creatures yet not sent any Messengers to them, either because He did not wish them to be accountable in the sense we understand the term, or due to some other reason that we do not at all understand.
The Modes of Descent
o The next heading refers to the modes of descent of the revelation. It is mentioned in a Hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari that there were times when the revelation came to the Prophet ﷺ and he heard something that is analogous in our sensory perception to the ringing of bells, and that this was the hardest type of revelation on the Prophet ﷺ. At other times, the angel would come to the Prophet ﷺ in the form of a man, and he was able to grasp everything in an easier manner.
o The question may arise as to why bells are mentioned in this narration. Mufti Usmani (HA) explains that according to Shaykh ibn al-‘Arabi, the sound of revelation does not break in between, which is analogous to the sound of a bell based on what we can relate to in this world. Also, when the bell is chiming, it becomes difficult to tell from which direction the sound is coming. This characteristic is used to highlight the fact that the Divine Word has no direction, but that for the ones who have been granted the blessing of hearing the Divine Word, it gives the impression of being heard from all directions.
o Of course, we have to keep a number of things in mind: The Muslim never says that the “Eternal Divine Word” became the letters and words of the recited Qur’an, but rather that the words and letters are the articulation of what Allah said eternally; thus, the ontological distinction is maintained between the speech of the creation and the Speech of Allah the Exalted.
o Also, keep in mind that the “Eternal Divine Word” is not “heard from a direction”, but rather that it is something which cannot be described through the normal way of referring to hearing and its relationship with the medium of air, the sense organs and body parts, letters, etc.
o [One point that may be treated as additional to this is that we have to keep the difference of opinion about whether the “Eternal Speech of Allah” can be heard at all. Thus, Imam al-Maturidi (RA) said that what is heard is only that which connects to the sense of hearing, which are sounds that point to the Eternal Speech of Allah (in which case there is no issue to consider deeply, since the Prophet ﷺ would be describing a sound which pointed to the Eternal Speech of Allah. However, Imam al-Ash’ari (RA) said that it is possible for Allah to enable some of His creation to hear something other than sounds, letters, and words, and that from this point of view some of the creatures have been allowed to hear the “Eternal Speech of Allah”. The most we can say from our side is that in such a case it would be a hearing without “Kayfiyya” (modality), just as seeing Allah in the Hereafter is a vision without Kayfiyya].
o We should also know then, that when the “chiming of bells” is mentioned, this is only a very basic likening of the “Divine Revelation” with something that the people may have some direct experience of. Thus, the claim of certain non-Muslims who try to link the “ringing of bells”, another Hadith which mentions that bells are connected to Satan, and this narration carries no weight, since the Prophet ﷺ never said that the Wahy sounds exactly like a “chiming bell”, but rather that it has no description, and that this analogy was brought forth in order for people to have a very basic idea, still without breaching the lack of modality in Allah’s Eternal Divine Word.
o On yet another level, a related example is when the Prophet ﷺ told his Companions that they would see Allah in the Hereafter like they see the full moon in terms of their certainty they have in their sight. But bringing up objections such as “then there must be distance between ourselves and Allah just as there is distance between us and the moon” or other such objections is uncalled for, since the narration is mentioned while keeping the basic precepts we know about Allah intact.
o It has also been narrated that the Prophet’s ﷺ camel would sit down if revelation ever came to the him while he was riding it, since the intensity of the revelation was such that it would be compelled to sit. Also, once Zayd bin Thabit (Radhia Allahu Anhu) experienced this intensity, as the Wahy began to descend while the Prophet ﷺ was resting his head on Zayd’s thigh, and his thigh felt as if it was going to break (it has been reported, perhaps as another incident, that the Prophet’s ﷺ thigh was directly above Zayd’s, and when the Wahy began, Zayd felt that this thigh was going to break). As has been mentioned in many places, this is one of the manifestations of the fact that Allah told the Prophet ﷺ that He was going to send upon him a “weighty Word”.
o What is important in these narrations as far as our discussion is concerned, is that this experience felt by other creatures cannot be explained by hallucinations or epilepsy, etc. We note that there was no “violence” involved in such cases (as may be seen when someone is hallucinating or under a fit of epilepsy). Rather, the strain and weight was “natural”, and can only be explained if we subscribe to the view that a supernatural force was bringing about this extra pressure to bear on Zayd (Radhia Allahu Anhu) and other creatures.
o Another characteristic that has been related is that at times, a humming sound close to the Prophet’s ﷺ face was discernible whenever the revelation came. Notice that again, this is something that cannot be “made up” without someone finding out about it quite easily, and it is thus, another ones of the evidences that what the Companions could hear at such times was tied to the revelation. [Note that in this case also, like that of the “chiming of the bells”, this is an approximate description of what was happening. We do not want people to now start literally analyzing the buzzing of bee’s sounds in order to find some fault with the description of the Companions].
o After all of these modes of revelation, there is also the type of Wahy where Jibril (Alayhi Salaam) would come to the Prophet ﷺ and deliver the revelation directly, and these instances were much easier on the Prophet. Someone may say that “How come no one saw such encounters, how do we know that in such cases Muhammad was not busy making up the Qur’an?”
o The truth is that such encounters with Jibril (Alayhi Salam) were not of a duration comparable to what would be necessary to “come up” with a book as voluminous as the Qur’an. Also, note that as a writing/recitation becomes longer, then the task of knowing exactly where to put certain passages becomes more difficult, since one has to fit the module within the whole so that both the module and the whole fit harmoniously. If one where to say that the Prophet ﷺ was the one who was authoring the Qur’an, this task of revision and organization itself would have taken up such a long time – due to the inherent experimentation that is required in such cases – that he would not have had time for anything else.
o If someone has doubts about this, ask a computer programmer what is easier, to code from scratch or to go back to old code (even one’s own code) and try to improve and add to it. Or even a normal author, how much time does it take for him to come up with an idea and fit it into the body of an already existing work. They will tell you that if there was no organization before, it would have been very difficult for them to progress in this matter except after a very long and arduous road. From this we have another piece of evidence that the Qur’an is not of Muhammad’s ﷺ own doing, but that it has come from Allah the Exalted.
o In the case of the author or programmer, also note that there has to be added overhead to organize all of the material, and this would add some extra paperwork/lines of code to the work he is doing. Of course, we know that organization will ultimately lead to lesser overall hassle and paperwork, but in here we are talking about whether one could do all of his work without anyone noticing what he is doing and then claim it is a miracle from God. Obviously this is simply not within the realm of normal possibilities.
o Now, there was yet another form of Wahy, which was when Jibrail (Alayhi Salaam) appeared to the Prophet ﷺ in his actual shape. This only occurred (as per the Mufti’s (HA) comments) only three times. Once, when the Prophet requested to see Jibrail in his real form and shape, a second time during the Mi’raaj (the Ascent to Paradise) and the third time during the very early days of the Prophethood. While the first two instances are well-corroborated, the third instance is more doubtful, as the narration suffers from certain technical defects.
o The discussion concerning this last instance is of importance, since a number of the enemies of Islam have used it against the pristine Islamic religion. This is especially concerning the mention in the narration that the Prophet ﷺ was about to commit suicide due to the revelation having stopped for a long time, when Jibrail (Alayhi Salaam) appeared to him in his true form and prevented him from doing so. It is with respect to this incident that a number of Hadith authorities have mentioned that it is an addition of a single narrator (az-Zuhri from Ayesha (Radhia Allahu Anha)), not found in other versions of the same Sahih Hadith, which is to be taken as weak in comparison to the overall correctness of the narration.
o There was also another mode of Wahy, during the Mi’raaj, when Allah the Exalted spoke directly to the Prophet ﷺ without any intermediary (as we know from the famous Hadith where the five daily prayers were enjoined). As is established in the narrations, the Mi’raaj occurred while the Prophet was awake, contrary to what some schematics may say [whose evidence is anyway weak, since they are following the method of the materialists, whose methodology is to deny such sort of amazing occurrences and miracles as a whole. But if such schematics say they follow Islam and are able to accept the revelation of the Qur’an from the angels who made the trip from the highest heavens to the Earth (and who still do so even in our day according to numerous primary texts), then how does it occur to them to reject only one journey to Heaven? It seems to me, and Allah knows best, that this is the influence of Aristotelian metaphysics that later on became the bedrock of Thomist Christianity and further down the line of the “Enlightenment”, Deism and Atheism. I am only bringing this up today since we see the same type of strange skepticism creep into the minds of many nominal Muslims, who are ready to doubt well-established Islamic narrations and beliefs without studying the foundations of what constitutes knowledge, evidence, and so forth. And Allah is our only Helper]. Anyway, as Mufti Usmani (HA) point out, there is another narration where the Prophet ﷺ had a direct conversation with Allah the Exalted, and this also comes under this mode of Wahy.
o There are some people who will start asking as to whether a person can converse with Allah directly. We tell them that if they accept the story of Musa (Alayhi Salaam) and many of the Ayaat of the Qur’an where Allah speaks with Adam (Alayhi Salaam) and even with Iblis, then Allah’s conversing with the Prophet ﷺ should not be taken as something from among the impossibilities. In any case, this is quite a broad field in Islamic theology with some scope for acceptable difference of opinion, but for the time being we tell those asking this question to accept that it occurred just as it happened that Allah spoke to, for example, Musa (Alayhi Salaam).
o There is, finally the Nafth fi al-rau’, which is the blowing into the Prophet’s ﷺ heart, which means that Jibrail (Alayhi Salaam) would let some words of the message fall into the Prophet’s heart without Jibrail taking any physical form.
The Chronology of the Revelation of the Qur’an
o Next, comes the discussion on the chronology of the revelation of the Qur’an. It is mentioned that the noble Qur’an is the Divine Word, secure in the Preserved Tablet (al-Lahw al-Mahfudh), as is attested to in the Qur’an. Of course, we remind the readers to keep in mind that this transcription in the Preserved Tablet (which are after all words and letters) is the “Kalaam Lafthi” which is an articulation of the “Kalaam Nafsi al-Qadeem al-Azali”, for otherwise the enemies of Islam will have a field day with those who are confused about this.
o What we see then, is that from the Preserved Tablet there were two descentions of the Holy Qur’an. Once, it was brought down to the al-Bayt al-Ma’mur, on the firmament of the world. This was a descent or revelation that took place all at once, and it took place on the Night of Qadr. The second mode of descent was when it came to the Holy Prophet ﷺ gradually over a period of 23 years, as the situation and needs demanded it. [Thus, when the Qur’an mentions that “We have sent it down on a Blessed Night” or on the “Night of Qadr”, note that this is absolutely not a contradiction, but is rather referring to this first mode of descent wherein all the Qur’an was sent down all at once].
o Mufti Usmani (HA) quotes from Imam Abu Shamah that there was a wisdom behind the first descention of the Qur’an to the firmament of the world, and this was to show the majesty of the Qur’an…of course, it can be said that the Qur’an has a superior majesty to that of the other revealed books, in that it will remain as the guide until the Heavens and Earth pass, and that both its content and style are miraculous, unlike the previous revealed books where only the content was miraculous but not the style. There is also the wisdom that through this initial descent, the angels would know that the time had arrived for the Qur’an to be revealed to the heart of the Prophet ﷺ.
o It is also mentioned that al-Zurqani (Rahimahulla) brought up the point that this two-timed descent aimed to show that not only is the Qur’an preserved in the heart of the Prophet ﷺ and subsequently in the collective hearts of the Muslim Ummah’s Huffadh, but that it is also kept in the Preserved Tablet and in the Bayt al-Ma’mur.
o Of course, the objector might say that this is irrelevant to the issue of making the Qur’an stronger in its preservation, since this is basically a matter predicated on the faith brought forth by the Qur’an s revealed to the heart of the Prophet ﷺ and the totality of the message of Islam. We say that fine, we cannot have any direct access to the Preserved Tablet or to the lowest firmament (the Bayt al-Ma’mur), but we can have access to the style of the Qur’an and compare it to that of all other prose and poetry (in order to determine its miraculousness), and we also have access to the scholars of the Qur’an (the modern Qurra) and through them uninterrupted connection to the text of the revelation (in order to determine the textual integrity of the Qur’an).
o Mufti Usmani (HA) mentions that there is near unanimous agreement that the revelation [i.e. the second gradual descent] began when the Prophet ﷺ was about forty years of age (it would be interesting to ask as to who are the ones falling out of this agreement and what their views and evidences are; this is something I need to ask about, but at a later time].
o As we know, this descention began on the Night of Qadr. Mufti Usmani (HA) mentions that this was the same date as the Battle of Badr, fought a few years later, and that there is disagreement on whether this Night was on the 17th, the 19th, or the 27th of Ramadhan, and perhaps other dates are given in different sources. (I will need to ask about this, since the date of the Battle of Badr is more or less well-known, so the question is whether the Night of Power really coincided with the adte of the future Battle of Badr).
The verses that came first
o Next comes the discussion as to which Verses came first. It is well known that these were the first five Verses of Surah al-‘Alaq. As per the Hadith in al-Bukhari, Ayesha (Radhia Allahu Anha) says that the beginning of revelation was through true dreams, followed by the Prophet’s ﷺ desire to worship in seclusion an to engage in I’tikaaf in the Cave of Hira.
o Here there are some things that may come up for discussion. There is a narration where the Prophet ﷺ(roughly) says that all the signs of Prophethood have been removed except for true dreams. Some people may latch onto this narration by saying that this means that Prophethood in fact does continue. However, this is a very wrong presentation of matters. I will Insha Allah research the matter more fully as time may permit, but what I can say for the time being is that if there are a multitude of things which make up Prophethood (i.e. true dreams plus revelation, etc.), it cannot be said that true dreams in and of themselves constitute the continuation of Prophethood, since the conglomeration of all the aspects making up this status of Prophethood have to be present in order for the person to be a Prophet. Partial “remnants” (if we can call it so) cannot constitute Prophethood.
o This is one matter, and another is that the Prophets knew unequivocally whenever their dreams were “Divinely inspired”, but this is not the case with anybody else, even when they do see true dreams. Rather, in our case we would need some kind of verification “from outside” before we could say that such-and-such dream is indeed a true dream. Thus Ijtihaad (reasoning based on the sources) is required in this case, which conclusively shows its difference from the dreams of Prophets.
o We also have to consider one issue with respect to the seclusion of the Prophet ﷺ before the Divine Message started to descend upon his heart. Some people might say that the Prophet’s case shows that meditation and seclusion is the way to achieving enlightenment: Just as the Buddha achieved enlightenment, so did the Prophet achieve truth due to his seclusion and meditation.
o But we say that such a presentation is very far from the truth of the matter. This is so because if we go by the Buddhist account of matters, the Buddha’s “enlightenment” consisted in his realization that everything arises co-dependently, and that there was no need to refer to creation by an All-Powerful Creator. This is diametrically opposed to the very first revealed Verse of the Qur’an, where the Prophet ﷺ was told to “Read in the name of your Lord who Created”. So here what we have is a total difference between an atheistic conception of reality and the utmost theistic conception of how things really are.
o Of course, the problem arose because, for the Buddhist, the enlightenment supposedly came as a direct result of the Buddha, but in the case of the Prophet ﷺ, his seclusion was not directly related to the beginning of revelation – he may have started to receive the revelation in another setting and in different circumstances, but it was only the decision of Allah for the descent of revelation to unfold in this way. So we have to keep this point in mind.
o There is also mention of the familiar story of how the Angel Jibrail (Alayhi Salaam) asked the Prophet ﷺ three times to read, and how he embraced the Prophet each time that the Prophet said that he did not know how to read, after which the first five Verses of Surah al-‘Alaq were revealed.
o It is noteworthy that some people (most notably, certain Christians) bring up the objection of how do we know that Jibrail (Alayhi Salaam) (or the “angel” in general terms) came to the Prophet ﷺ on authorization of Allah the Exalted. That is, how do we know that he did not “steal” the revelation and give it to the Prophet surreptitiously without Allah’s permission?
o We say that in such a case, the Christian (or whatever the objector’s religion) is not describing angels, but in fact is only describing the evil “Jinn” or more generally, the “devils”. This is because as far as Islam is concerned, angels never do anything other than what they are commanded to do, and for them to “steal” something is out of the question. Besides, they are created without “free wills” like what we have, so they basically have no faculties to carry out such a hypothetical theft.
o Now, with respect to evil “Jinns” or “devils” snatching the revelation and giving it to the Prophet ﷺ, we say that in such a case, we say that in such a case, none of the miracles of the Prophets could be substantiated as coming from Allah, since one could conceivably say that the amazing things given to Musa, ‘Isa (Alayhima Salaam) or any other Prophet of Allah were actually types of Istidraaj (events used to delude the disbelievers further away from the truth), may Allah save us from holding on to such beliefs.
o Of course, this brings up the issue of how the opponent establishes what is a miracle and what is a fabrication of the Jinns and devils. This is absolutely necessary, because if there is no such rule, then how does our opponent even know if the existence of devils is true (since the existence of devils and their characteristics are known only through revelation, and this needs a true miracle from Allah to substantiate it).
o What this wrong position of the objector may lead to is basically a naturalistic materialism. Why? Because any miraculous or wondrous matter is dismissed as a manifestation of casual relationships within the world. Or if it is unilaterally said to be from the devils, the fundamental criteria for differentiating between true and false occurrences is very unclear, and it would probably lead to most people dismissing all such occurrences as false… so one needs to understand the necessity of a solid basis for establishing the true miracles from the false occurrences without recourse “only on faith.”
o Let me say that the explanation above is also relevant whenever someone says that “How do we know that the Qur’an, with all of its wondrous style, was not sent by some supernatural agent other than Allah?” There are two issues in here: Either the person does not understand the true nature of Allah (that is, he thinks that there are entities in the Universe and beyond who have power independent of Allah), or he is basically saying (whether intentionally or subliminally) that the “devils” revealed the Qur’an to Muhammad ﷺ. The first case would require, in addition to the above general explanation, an elucidation on the true nature of Allah and that there is no division or delegation of His actual “Creating Power”.
o Mufti Usmani (HA) then mentions that there was a gap of three years (known as the ‘fatrah’) between the first revelation and the subsequent revelation of Verses from Surah al-Muddhaththir, and that after this initial gap, the sequence of revelation was reactivated (and it went on steadily thereafter until the Prophet ﷺ passed from this world).
The Makki and Madani Verses
o Next is the heading on distinguishing the Makki from the Madani Suras of the Qur’an. This distinction is dependent on whether the Verse under consideration was revealed after the Prophet’s ﷺ reaching the city of Madinah after his hijrah (migration) from Makkah, or whether it was revealed before this auspicious event was complete. Of course, some people take the distinction between Makki and Madani Chapters to mean only the location of Makkah and Madinah, and while such was generally the case, this was not always so. This is attested to by the fact that there were Verses revealed during the Farewell Hajj and these are Madani Verses, even though they were revealed while the Prophet was in the outskirts of Makkah.
o Of course, we also have some situations in which certain Verses are Madani in an otherwise Makki Surah, or vice-versa (such as Verses 163 to 172 of Surah Al-A’raaf). Thus, the consideration of a Chapter being Makki or Madani is generally built on the nature of the majority of its Verses.
Characteristics of Makki and Madani Verses
o Next, we consider the characteristics that inform us if a Surah is Makki or Madani are. Some of these characteristics are universal and some are generally true. The universal rules are: (1) Whenever the word ‘كلَّا’ (translated as ‘Nay’) appears, this is a sign of a Makki Sura (2) Every Sura that has a Sajda in it is Makki, according to the Hanafi Madhab (3) Every Surah in which the story of Adam (alayhi Salaam) and Iblid is mentioned is Makki, except for Surah al-Baqarah (4) Every Surah mentioning Jihad and its injunctions is Madani (5) Every Surah mentioning the Munafiqs (hypocrites) is Madani.
o Let me just take a little detour and say something about this point #5 and what the Twelver Shias’ say about hypocrites in their religion. The Shias say that the top Sahabah, those who converted to Islam early in the Makkan period, were mostly hypocrites. I know the mention of this itself is very troubling to us Sunnis, but let us consider the matter logically if we can and show the weakness in this view.
o The reason why hypocrites are mentioned only in Madani Suras according to the Muslims is that it was only in Madinah that the power of Islam in its socio-political aspect started to grow more and more, even if it was little by little at first. This is why certain people (like Abdullah bin Ubay’) felt slighted from the time the Prophet ﷺ arrived in Madinah, since he took away the imminent power and kingship they were about to be conferred with along with whatever material pleasures accompanying rulers and kings. Moreover, as Islam grew in power, one can envision ‘bandwagon’ support manifesting, in that “sunshine soldiers” would crop up when the situation was good, and leave when the situation got difficult.
o If we understand this issue, then we will know that what happened in Makkah was actually the mirror opposite of what was happening in Madinah. In Makkah the situation for the Prophet ﷺ personally, and for the Muslims in general got worse and worse, with the migration having to be done while the Prophet miraculously escaped the plot to assassinate him. One cannot imagine the Muslims who converted at this period or earlier as being predisposed to hypocrisy, since hypocrites only wish for temporal wealth and quick gains, and the only thing available in Makkah was fear, suffering, intimidation, and plots against Islam. So one cannot imagine “bandwagon supporters” at this stage, but only supporters and followers who truly beluieved in the message brought by the Prophet.
o Some Shias may say that the Companions changed and as the power of Islam became more apparent their intentions became more geared towards only the mundane world. But we say that even as the power of Islam was growing gradually, there were setbacks and problems, since Allah wished to test the believers and make it known as to who would remain on the correct path and who would do something else.
o One of the most important times when this was apparent was in fact just after the Prophet’s ﷺ death, when the wars of apostasy and against those who did not pay Zakat started to rage across the Arabian Peninsula. In material terms, there would have been no way that Abu Bakr (Radhia Allahu Anhu) could have driven back all the rebellions from the relatively small city of Madinah. But only die to the faith he (RAA) had in the promise of Islam (that is, the promise that it would become dominant in the world) could he remain steadfast. If we were to postulate that Abu Bakr was a hypocrite (Ma’adha Allah), at the first indication of trouble and pending doom he would have simply ran away and fled the city of Madinah, and let Islam to its fate (since according to this hypothesis he would not have even cared about what happens to Islam, but only about whether he has wealth and power).
o This matter is known, since the Qur’an and other Islamic texts make it clear, the hypocrites are most scared for their lives and the potential loss of their riches, and these two things cannot be consolidates while the city of Madinah may have been overrun by disbelieving tribes. That is, if only the material terms (the vision of the hypocrites) is considered, there is no kingly power to consider in such a case.
o What is really astonishing is the narrative brought up by certain Shias, who say that the warring tribes were actually crypto-supporters of ‘Ali (Radhia Allahu Anhu), who did not wish to be under the authority of Abu Bakr (RAA) but rather knew that the Khilafa should have been for ‘Ali (RAA), or at the very least had enough confusion about the issue of leadership that they could not, in good faith, allow for Abu Bakr (RAA) to rule over them.
o To be honest, this is an amazing claim, even stranger than the main “hypocrisy” claims we are dealing with. This is because if such tribes were really on truth and ‘Ali (RAA) knew about their case, there could have been no way that ‘Ali (RAA) would have been sitting idle while this alleged “revolution” in his favor was taking place. Even if we say that such people and tribes were confused but at least knew that Abu Bakr (RAA) should not be their Khalifa, this would still have provided a golden opportunity for ‘Ali (RAA) to launch a coup of sorts and claim the so-called “rightful Khalifa”.
o If it is said that ‘Ali (RAA) knew that the successful rebellion would only lead to evil results, then I wonder what type of “worse results” according to the Shia could have transpired, given that – Subhanallah – they accuse the likes of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar (RAA) [and their daughters, the Mothers of the Believers] to have killed the Prophet ﷺ and Fatima (RAA), and to have plotted to kill ‘Ali (RAA) according to some of their reports. Can anyone envisage more evil people than this, and then turn around and say that ‘Ali (RAA) stayed quiet in order to “safeguard Islam”. It would seem to me that those who made up these stories were mostly thinking in terms of the palace intrigues of non-Muslim courts, and did not know much about the reality of Madinese society in the period immediately following the Prophet’s ﷺ passing from this world. This is exactly why so many details of their story are grossly incorrect and not related to reality at all.
o Alright, coming back to the main discussion, there are a number of characteristics that generally show the Suras to be either Makki or Madani, even though exceptions exist to this rule: (1) In Makki Suras, the mode of address is generally “Ya Ayyuha an-Naas” and in the Madani Suras it is “Ya Ayyuha al-Ladhiina Amanu”. (2) The Makki Suras are generally short and brief while the Madani Suras are long and detailed. (I am personally not too sure about this as a “rule”, since there are quite a good number of Suras that are Makki and long as well (for example Surah al-‘Aaraf, Al-An’am, Yunus, Hud, Yusuf, and many more) (3) The subject matter of the Makki Suras is more geared towards Tawhid, Nubuwwah, the truth of the Qiyaamah, and stories of the previous Prophets in order to confront Muhammad ﷺ. The Madani Suras contain many more injunctions on social life, Jihaad, exposition of the Hudood (limits) of Allah, and so forth. (4) In the Makkan Suras, the confrontation is mostly against the idolaters, while in the Madani Suras, it is geared more towards the People of the Book and the hypocrites. (5) The Makki Suras’ linguistic style is more majestic than the style found in the Madani Suras.
o There are some things that need to be clarified: First, if it is said that the Makki Suras are more majestic, it does not mean that the Madani Chapters are not miraculous in their own right. What it means is only that the miracle of the Makki Suras is greater. Just as an analogy, think of the wondrous sign of bringing one dead person back to life, versus bringing a cemetery full of dead people back to life –the latter is more majestic, but it does not render the first instance as wondrous.
o We also need to remember that the style of the Verses of the Qur’an is relative to the type of message being presented. Thus, the matters of the Hereafter, of the Tawhid of Allah, etc., are the fundamental principles of the religion, and thus the style is majestic. Then, we have matters of legislation, which are the practices of the religion. These are obviously also important, but since they deal with practical, day-to-day matters, their style will not be as high and rick in allegories, profusion of styles, etc., from what we see in the Makki Suras.
o But even here, we need to note that the style for certain matters still rises to heights depending on the subject matter, even for Madani Suras. For example, when mentioning the matter of Qitaal (fighting), the letters, words used convey the harshness in fighting. Another example is what we can see in Surah at-Tawbah, where there is an exposition and humiliation of the hypocrites, which is somewhat analogous to the chiding of the idolater disbelievers in Makkah. This is why the style of this Surah rises to a level not generally seen in the Verses dealing with legislation only. Of course, this is so, because Allah was shaking the hearts of the hypocrites and revealing their inner plots, and this required its own style different from that dealing with other matters.
o Of course, we need to remember that the Qur’an’s style rises to beyond the highest genres known to the Arabs for any particular given need that had to be addressed through speech. Thus, the early Makkan Suras go past the apex of poetry and Saj’, and the Verses talking about day-to-day legislative matters also rise beyond what was common in straight-forward promulgated rules and regulations.
o Any potential opponent has to also keep in mind the fact that different needs require different types of elucidation, and that Allah the Exalted revealed the Verses accordingly. This is why there is no profound allegory, etc., in the legislation-oriented Verses, since the composition/ordering of the Qur’an follows the intended meanings. Had it been a human author, he may have been tempted to write in flowery language for legislation as well, even though such a thing does not correspond to the subject matter at hand.
o Just as a simple side, we should remember that there was refutation of outward non-Muslims as well in Madinah, in the form of refutations to Christians and Jews. Some people may now come up and say that the Qur’an’s refutations do not refer to Christian and Jewish orthodoxy and are therefore, invalid and irrelevant. We say that what matters is the belief of the people confronted at that time, not necessarily the content of councils and edicts coming out of theological seminaries.
o This is important to consider, because we can see, even today with the ready availability of all the formal edicts and pronouncements, many self-identified Christians and Jews holding onto beliefs (such as reincarnation) that really do not have much traceability back to formal treatises of the Church. But Islam will not shy away from confronting the beliefs of a denomination only because they are not the formal doctrine of the said religion. Rather, it will address the belief as found, and provide a blueprint for the refutation of any other belief that may be presented in front of the Muslims in the future.
The Gradual Revelation of the Noble Qur’an
o Next, comes the issue that all of the Qur’an was not revealed at once, but rather little by little over a period of 23 years. At times, only one Verse, or part of one Verse would be revealed, while at other times, many Verses would be revealed, or a whole Chapter of the Qur’an would be sent down, as was the case with Surah #6 (Al-An’aam), a long Surah that was revealed at one time.
o Of course, some people may ask as to why the Qur’an was revealed in a gradual manner, why could it not have all been sent down at once. In fact, the Arab idolaters asked this question, and Allah Himself answers this in the Qur’an, saying in Surah al-Furqaan (Verses 25:32-33) that He wished to strengthen the Prophet’s ﷺ heart, and to bring forth the answers to the various querries at the time they were formulated.
o Now Imam ar-Razi has given a few reasons, based on the Qur’anic Verses, as to why the situation of gradual revelation transpired as it did. He says: First, The Prophet ﷺ was an Ummi (unlettered), and had the Qur’an been sent at once, it would have proved difficult for it to be remembered and written down by the Muslims at large. Such was different to the case of Musa (Alayhi Salaam), who was literate, and therefore the entire Torah was revealed to him at once.
o Second, had the Qur’an been sent down at once, then all of its relatively stricter injunctions would have been applicable from the very start of Prophethood, while the mercy of Allah for this Ummah was such that the Ummah would gain more and more certainty in their hearts while the Verses of core belief were being revealed during the Makkan period of 13 years and into the Madinan period, and little by little the final “version” of the rules would be sent down for total application. Note how the Muslim nation was favored over the Israelites in this respect: For them, they had to follow the (must stricter) rules right from the time the Torah had been revealed to Musa (Alayhi Salaam), without any excuses. Even the punishment for not following certain rules that we might think of as small was relatively harsh, but this was what Allah had legislated for them. This truth, of course, should not make the Muslims arrogant, but we should rather be humble and thankful to Allah that this has been the situation with the final revelation and legislation, and we should strive to do our best regardless of the difficulties we may face.
o We also need to take another lesson from this gradual revelation of the Shariah, when today we see a large chunk of the nominally Muslim population wandering astray…we should endeavor to teach them Islam properly from the base up, so that they may intellectually understand the fundamentals of the religion and after that they will, of themselves, perform the Shar’i duties without any recalcitrance. Otherwise, what may happen is that the nominal Muslim might fall into open apostasy, due to not understanding the Islamic religion from a holistic perspective, instead thinking that it is merely a set of medieval legalistic injunctions to control people.
o Third, we also know the huge difficulties that the Prophet ﷺ went through during his mission. There was great wisdom behind the angel Jibril (Alayhi Salaam) appearing from time to time and revealing portions of the Qur’an to him, as it gave renewed strength to his heart at critical junctions in his Prophethood.
o Fourthly, as mentioned above, the Qur’an refers to certain questions of people asked at specific times. It also points to certain historical events and incidents. It is obvious that such answers to these questions, and references to historical events, would be revealed at the appropriate time, and not simply pre-empted long before the questions were asked or the events referred to had taken place.
Sabab an-Nuzul (Causes of Revelation)
o Next is the discussion of the Asbab an-Nuzuul. Mufti Usmani (HA) makes it clear that there were those Verses that were revealed by Allah without there being any question asked, or without any event “in the background”. But there are other Verses that were revealed in answer to a question or with reference to some event. And in the terminology of the Mufassireen, such background in termed as the “sabab” or “sha’n” of nuzul (revelation). An example is of Verse 2:221; this was revealed with respect to Marthad (Radhia Allahu Anhu) who refused to commit sin with a woman he liked, but wished to know from the Prophet ﷺ if he could marry her – and these Verses are the general prohibition, revealed in this particular occasion. Obviously, if there is a cause for the revelation of a particular Verse, then it is advantageous and sometimes necessary for us to know this cause in order to make an interpretation of this Verse and to derive Fiqhi and other types of rulings from it.
The Seven Readings of the Holy Qur’an
o So now comes the discussion concerning the seven readings of the Qur’an. This is a lessening of the burden on this Ummah (especially if we consider the early Muslims). It comes in the Hadith that the Prophet ﷺ asked Allah’s Forgiveness, and implored for his Ummah to be allowed to read the Qur’an according to the seven modes of recitation, and Allah granted this request.
o There is one issue we learn from this, which is that there is scope for valid differences within the Ummah, keeping in mind that the methodology is properly followed. So in the same way that someone reading the Qur’an in one mode cannot force the other person to read it only in this mode (as long as the latter recitation is also valid), we have differences of opinion concerning the rulings of Fiqhi matters, or the wordings of Aqeedah tenets, or in Hadith classification and verification. In all these cases, there is indeed scope for differences, while the scholarly methods are employed. So we should not fall into extremism: Neither being too liberal and saying that we will read the Qur’an or take whichever Fiqhi ruling we feel like, but also not having “tunnel vision” and terming as heretics those who take other valid paths. Of course, this is all a function of the middle path this nation is to adopt in all of its affairs.
o Someone might ask that how is it that the Prophet ﷺ asked Allah to reduce the burden of this Ummah, even though a large part of the Qur’an had already been revealed. What such people are implying is that the mode of recitation was only one and that the rest were forged, as were the Ahadith saying that there are seven Ahruf of the Qur’an.
o I will need to ask more deeply concerning this matter as time permits, but basically the issue is how many mass transmitted readings are there, whatever number they may be. Granted that there are some issues with the interpretation of this and similar Ahadith (there is no need to get into that right now), but what we as Muslims should keep in mind is what the transmissions of the Qur’an show to be continuous and correct; the discussion about how these combine with certain Ahadith can no doubt be carried out by the specialists, but the general Muslim public should not let the certain things be clouded due to tangential discussions.
o There is another issue concerning this, and it is an objection stemming from the Shia side. As in the case of the 50 prayers reduced to 5 in the Mi’raaj of the Prophet ﷺ, some people may scoff at the portrayal of the Prophet asking Allah four times for the burden of recitation to be lessened on the Ummah. The problem is that the Shias see these narrations as disobedience from the Prophet, while in reality this is not so at all. Rather, what we have is the Prophet imploring Allah the Exalted for the benefit of the Muslims at large, and this is something quite allowed for Prophets and Messengers in general, and particularly for Muhammad ﷺ, who was sent as a Mercy to the Worlds.
o In fact, when we consider the issue soberly, the position of the Shia in these regards is surprising due to the following: Shias are known for their numerous (and many would say excessive) requests for Tawassul from their 12 Imams and other personalities considered holy for the Shias. But what is Tawwasul, other than intercession of these personages in Allah’s Court, so that Allah will show favor and mercy to the on petitioning for this Tawassul? Someone may ask, why couldn’t the Imams submit and be happy at the judgment of Allah concerning this person, rather than “seeking to influence” Allah’s decree regarding this person?
o Thus, if the Twelvers were to follow their own criticism to its logical conclusion, they would be forced to say that Tawassul is disallowed and a form of insolence in front of Allah’s Decrees. But of course, such is not the case, and the believer knows that Allah may forgive people.
o There may be a retort from the Shia, along the lines that a decree of Allah concerning the Sharia is a closed matter, so how can the Sunnis say that the Prophet ﷺ got it “overturned” so as to say with his supplication? We say that the opponent does not understand the concept of changes and abrogations with respect to the Sharia. When we see the Qur’an, we understand that there are many things that were modified during the Prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ, and in many of these cases, there is an obvious instance or “sabab” for such a change to have been decreed. So there is nothing strange or contradictory in this matter.
o The other narration [I believe the one with ‘Umar (Radhia Allahu Anhu] is presented, where the Prophet ﷺ said that one may recite the Qur’an is seven readings. Of course, there are different scholarly positions regarding this Hadith, and the weightier meaning is that the variations found in the different readings are of seven types, and they are as follows:
o (1) Difference in nouns: that is singular/dual/plural, and masculine/feminine. An example is تمت كلمت ربك while another is تمت كلمات ربك (2) Difference in verbs: differences between past/present/imperative. For example, we read ربّنا باعد بين اسفارنا in one reading, while it is ربّنا بعّد بين اسفارنا in another reading. (3) The difference in the placement of diacritical marks: Variance in I’raab, and thus variance in the grammatical mode of a word. For example: ذو العرش المجيدُ and ذو العرش المجيدَ (4) The difference caused by addition and deletion of words: There are some instances where there is a word in one reading but it is missing in the other reading. One example is تجري من تحتها الأنهار while in another reading it is تجري تحتها الأنهار (5) The precedence and succession of: certain words: There is a word preceding in one reading, while it succeeds in another. An example is و جاءت سكرت الموت بالحق and in another reading it is و جاءت سكرة الحق بالموت (6) Difference caused by transposition: Words may be replaced from reading to reading. For example ننشرها and ننشزها, or طلح and طلع (7) The difference caused by the modes of pronouncing the letters (written in the Tafsir as manners of reading, but I thought it was redundant or confusing): This includes variations in tafkhim or tarqiq (making letters sound heavy or soft), madd (prolongation), qasr (shortening letters), idh-har (clear pronounciation), idhgham (assimilation). The word itself does not change, but the mode of its pronounciation does change. The example given is of مُوْسَى and مُوْسَىْ.
o So a number of readings were revealed incorporating these seven types of variation. The differences are not really of meaning, but only a type of latitude to make recitation easy.
o There is the question, which I need to ask, that some of the meanings obviously do change in certain circumstances, and even legal rulings change based on different readings, such as what we see in the difference between Hanafis and Sha’fiis with respect to the touching the opposite gender and Wudhu, and the Shafi’is using one of the readings to establish their position. A partial answer that I can think of is that these sorts of differences are not necessarily caused only by different readings of the Qur’an. In a number of cases, there is discussion among the scholars concerning one word with the same diacritics, emphasis, etc. (exactly the same in every way), but the meaning of the word itself, as it relates to rulings of (for example) Fiqh is under discussion. The famous example is that of the word “Quruu’” and whether it refers to purity from menstruation or the menstruation cycles themselves. Or in many cases, certain Ahadith whose text is definitely not under any dispute are interpreted differently, and different rulings derive from these differences extraneous to the text itself. So the reader should keep this in mind.
o It is mentioned that at the beginning of the revelation, people were not used to the style of the Qur’an (in terms of reciting, of course). Due to this many readings were permitted within these seven variations. However, many readings were abrogated in the final year of the Prophet’s ﷺ stay in this world, and the ones which continue to stay with us are those with uninterrupted succession.
o I will need to ask concerning how it is known that the uninterrupted succession (or transmission) is tied with only the readings that were retained. One answer that comes to mind is that the Prophet ﷺ would have obviously informed the Companions (Radhia Allahu Anhum) that such-and-such reading is not to be recited anymore, and they would have likewise told their students, and such readings would be “closed”, and not recited anymore. Another possibility is that whatever reading was abrogated, then the Muslim Ummah was simply made to forget that recitation and the matter would be settled like that. (This is an inference only from one Hadith, I would seriously need to ask about this particular possibility).
o Next, we know that ‘Uthman (Radhia Allahu Anhu) during his Khilapha, arranged to have seven copies of the Qur’an prepared and he incorporated all readings in these seven copies by leaving the Verses of the Qur’an without dots and vowel points so that the recitation could be done according to the different accepted readings. Most of the readings merged into this script, and for the ones that did not merge into the script, he elected to have the copies written separately.
o Note that the community was very attached to the Qur’an, and the science of the Qira’at naturally developed into a science in its own right, with hundreds of scholars who dedicated their lives to the preservation of the Qur’an. And we can make a slight analogy with what we have today: Yes, the Muslims are unfortunately lacking in the Qur’an in a number of ways which I will mention shortly, but they at least have this abstract love for the Qur’an in their hearts, even if they cannot recite it properly or follow its guidance. May Allah help all the Muslims.
o So when ‘Uthman (Radhia Allahu Anhu) sent the copies of the Qur’an to various areas, he also sent reciters who could teach people how to recite the Qur’an – of course, because there is no way anyone can recite the original script – since it is a “skeletal script” and the learning process will absolutely need a teacher.
o So eventually the Ummah stipulated certain conditions for the acceptability of a reading as being considered “Qur’an”, and these conditions were: (1) there is room for the reading in the script of the ‘Uthmanic copies of the Qur’an. (2) It conforms to the grammar of the Arabic language. (3) It should have, with sound and proven authority, a claim back to the Prophet ﷺ, and be well-known among the Qurra’. Of course, if the readings do not match even one of these criteria, it cannot be conclusively said to be a reading of the Qur’an. A Mash-hor (well-known) reading is still not at the same level as a Mutawaatir reading in terms of absolute certainty.
o So many readings continued to be transmitted in succession. And then, one Imam started giving instruction in one, or selected, readings, to the point that the reading started to become associated with his same.
o After this, certain scholars such as ibn Sallam, al-Sijistani, and at-Tabari started to compile books elucidating the various readings, and it is mentioned that they compiled more than twenty such reading in their books.
o Then came Ibn Mujahid (Rahimahulla) and his book on seven Qaris (reciters). It so happened that Ibn Mujahid’s book became so famous that lay people started thinking that acceptable Qira’at are confined to only these seven readings, even though this is not technically correct. Plus, there was another misconception that propped up, which was that the seven Qira’at mentioned by Ibn Mujahid were the seven variations mentioned in the Hadith discussed above.
o And we see that even today, people are many times still confused about this matter, and some even reject the Mutawaatir readings because they think that the Hadith must be forged (Subhanallah). But as we see in here, the earlier authors who compiled books about the Qira’at included up to twenty recitations, so it cannot possibly be said that there were only seven correct readings of the Qur’an.
o There may be another reason for confusion, which is that above it is mentioned that ‘Uthman (Radhia Allahu Anhu) sent seven copies of the Qur’an to different areas of the Muslim world. I will need to ask about this, but it seems that this number seven was also chosen due to administrative purposes, rather than due to any connection to the Hadith above.
The Seven Qaris
o May Allah save us from any misconceptions in our religion. Anyway, the seven Qaris who became famous due to the situation brought up by Ibn Mujahid’s book are: 1. Ibn Kathir al-Dari, who saw some of the Sahaba. His famous transmitters were Bazzi and Qambal, and his reading became more famous in Makkah. 2. Nafi’, who learned from seven Tabie’een who were students of ibn Ka’ab, ibn ‘Abbas, and Abu Hurayra (Radhia Allahu Anhum). The famous transmitters from his are Qalun and Warsh, and his recitation was more famous in Madina 3. Al-Hishi, better known as Ibn Aamir, who saw some of the Sahaba, and studied under Mughira ibn Shihaab, a student of ‘Uthman (Radhia Allahu Anhu). His transmitters are Hisham and Dhakwan, and his reading was more famous in Syria. 4. Ibn al-‘Ala, who learned from Mujaahid, Sa’eed bin Jubayr, students of Ibn Abbas and Ubay ibn Ka’ab. His transmitters were al-Dawri and al-Susi, and his recitation was fairly well-known in Basrah 5. Al-Zayyat, who was a disciple of those learning the Qur’an from ‘Uthman, ‘Ali, and Ibn Mas’ud (Radhia Allahu Anhum). His transmitters were Ibn Hisham and ibn Khalid. 6. ‘Asim, a disciple of both ibn Mas’ud and ‘Ali. The famous transmitters from him are Shu’bah and Hafs. The recitation nowadays is mostly done through Hafs ‘an ‘Asim. 7. Al-Kisai, his transmitters being Marwazi and al-Dawri, and the reading became more common in Kufa.
o So as we had mentioned, a misunderstanding arose as to how many readings were acceptable, so Allamah Shadhai and ibn Mihran (Rahimahumulla) among others collected ten readings in their books. In these, in addition to the above seven, the following readings are also included: 1. Al-Hadrami (Ya’qub), more famous in Basrah 2. Ibn Hisham (from another route other than Hamzah al-Zayyat (number 5 above)], more famous in Kufa 3. Al-Qa’qa’, more popular in Madinah. 4. Abu al-Faraj al-Shambudhi, a resident of Baghdad.
o Some have counted Al-A’maash among the 14 qaris in place of Shambudhi. I will need to ask how this is related to the issue as a whole. The first ten readings are credited with uninterrupted succession – perhaps this is why Shambudhi is replaced in some scholars’ works, but I will need to ask, where the number “14” comes from for this discussion. Of course, there are numerous Mash-hur, Shadh, and other types of readings, no doubt. But do note that what is not Mutawaatir is not counted as the Qur’an, please be careful about this matter.
o Another thing is that some people may say that they do not believe there are so many Qira’at, they believe there is only one ‘Aam Qira’a. We tell them, you have two options: Either believe and trust the community of believers, or go do your own research in this respect. The second option consists in sitting in the company of the Qurra’, getting their formal Ijaaza, then moving on to the next Qaari, obtain his Ijaaza, and so forth. We tell such people to in fact get as many Ijaazaat from as many Qaaris as they possibly can, perhaps every single Qaari alive in the world if possible. Then, if you have traversed the land, done your (considerable) legwork, and then you saw as an honest academic that there is only one (or say two) Qira’at, then we will sit down and consider what is your evidence in this regard, and compare it with other Qurra’ who have also spent all their lives in the pursuit of knowledge of the Qur’an.
o But note the very important point in here, which is that the valid objections to any science in Islam are done by gaining the proper knowledge from the very fountainhead of such knowledge, travelling the land, comparing and contrasting the various pieces of evidence, and then presenting your conclusions so that your peers (that is, other experts in that field) can conduct a peer review of your findings. We say that arm-chair criticism is simply invalid, and is not paid much attention to.
o As an addendum to the above, it is very strange and perplexing that for certain fields – such as say Tibetan Buddhism – the Western academia expects that those writing on the topics have studied from the traditional seminaries in Dharamsala or wherever Tibetan Buddhism is based. At the very least those who have traditional seminal knowledge of Buddhism are highly regarded. But when it comes to Islamic studies, the situation has unfortunately been something else: There are Murtadeen (apostates), Zanadeeqa (heretics), or Orientalists given chairs in “think-tanks” in order to present “what Islam should be like” or how “Muslims must change in order to adapt to the world”. In the academic publications, we also see people outside of the traditional Islamic learning centers being on the boards of Encyclopedias on Islam, and so forth. This reached such preposterous situations that sometimes Muslims were altogether barred from participating in the editing of such works, which would many times be the first works that any outsider who wishes to know something about Islam would have access to. I believe the situation is changing somewhat nowadays, but we still observe people who have absolutely no traditional Islamic knowledge being paraded around as “experts” in this field. May Allah help us all and help His people.
The Preservation of the Holy Qur’an
In the days of the Holy Prophet ﷺ
o Next, comes the matter of the preservation of the Qur’an, starting from the Prophet’s ﷺ time. Allah knows best, but perhaps this section could have been placed before the one dealing with the Seven Ahruf and the Muatwaatir Qira’at. But perhaps the confusion among the masses concerning the Ahruf and Qira’aat led the esteemed Mufti (Hafidhahulla) to place it in the order we see it in here.
o Anyway, the discussion begins by saying that since the Qur’an was not all revealed at once, it was not possible to preserve it in book form. Thus, it was always very important for the memory of the people to be the primary means of preserving the Qur’an.
o First, we discuss the memorization of the Prophet ﷺ himself. We see that at the beginning of the revelation, the Prophet used to repeat the words of the Wahy instantly and in a hurry so that they would be memorized by him. This was until the revelation of one Ayah in Surah Al-Qiyaamah came, where Allah informed the Prophet that he would be granted a memory that would not forget the words of Wahy. Thus, the heart of the Prophet was the most protected place for the recited revelation, and as an additional thing, Jibrail (Alayhi Salaam) would review the Qur’an with him once every year in the month of Ramadhan, and twice in the year he left this world.
o Of course, the Prophet ﷺ would teach the text of the Qur’an to his Companions, and the Companions themselves used to try to outdo each other in the memorization (and of course, application) of the Qur’an. The Muslims of that era were enamored with the Qur’an that some women asked nothing of their husbands-to-be save to teach them the Qur’an.
o And look at us today, Alhamdullilah some people do read and memorize the Qur’an or large parts thereof, but others just cannot even recite one Ayah properly, to the point that even their prayers may be affected. And we ask Allah for help in this matter.
o It is written that hundreds of Companions put every thing else away, and concentrated only on learning and teaching the Qur’an. When anyone made Hijra from Makkah to Madinah, the Prophet ﷺ would entrust him to one of the Ansar so that the Qur’an could be taught to the newcomer (I need to ask if it was only the Ansar, or do they mean any one of the residents in Madinah who had learnt the Qur’an properly and thoroughly).
o It is mention that there so was much instruction in the Qur’an in the very Masjid of the Prophet ﷺ that he had to ask for their voices to be lowered in order to prevent mistakes.
o The list of the Companions who had memorized the Qur’an is given: It includes the 4 rightly guided Khulafa, three of the mothers of the Believers, the Abaadilla, Talha, Mu’awiyah, ‘Amr bin al-‘Aas, and others (Radhia Allahu Anhum). A more comprehensive list can be seen on this link.
o If someone thinks this to be strange, their objection is refuted by two things: First, as the author mentions, literacy was not in vogue in Arabia at that time (and in fact, even today, only about half of the world’s population is functionally literate – we cannot simply make assumptions about literacy/illiteracy without a basis in reality). Also, even if someone did know how to write, the material for writing was quite scarce, so it would be difficult to formally transmit anything through writing.
o But in lieu of this, Allah blessed the Arabs with a tremendous memory, to the point that a common Arab would remember thousands of lines of poetry, detailed genealogies of their ancestors, and even the genealogies of their horses. So this is the means through which Allah strengthened the Arabs and allowed for the revelation to be preserved.
o And we can, with a little reflection, see how the oral method of preservation of the revealed book of Allah was superior to that of (say) the Bible. This is because in the case of the Bible, the earliest manuscripts themselves have not actually been handed down from generation to generation, but were rather discovered by historians, etc., and only after certain extraneous and very fallible dating methods were employed, could an educated guess be made in this connection, and there is still a lot of uncertainty and bones of contention in this regard. It has reached a point where many of the organized churches have ceded the position of the authenticity of their scriptures, but rather they try to make up the fundamentals of their religion ad hoc.
The Writing of Wahy
o It is mentioned that, in addition to memorizing the Qur’an, the Prophet ﷺ made arrangements to have the Qur’an committed to writing as well. Zayd bin Thaabit (Radhia Allahu Anhu) says in a narration that he used to be the person who would write the words of Wahy for the Prophet ﷺ. After the state of Wahy was over for the Prophet ﷺ, Zayd would present himself with writing materials (a shoulder bone is mentioned).
o Note how this implies that there was scarcity of writing material, and that the memory of the people had to be used as a primary means of preservation, but also note how much care was given to the Qur’an, that even with the scarcity of writing materials, the Prophet ﷺ still made arrangements for the Wahy to be written down.
o So it is mentioned that when Zayd (Radhia Allahu Anhu) was finished writing that portion of the Wahy, he felt as if the weight of copying the Qur’an would break his leg and he would never again be able to walk.
o It must be noted that this description is not from the Prophet’s ﷺ internal states while he was receiving the Wahy, but rather they are from a non-Prophet who is describing the huge effect that only writing down of the Qur’an had on him. So it is not only the “reflected” weight of the Prophet’s riding camel or his Companions while the revelation was being sent, but also the feeling of the Companions themselves when they were interacting with the recited Qur’an, shortly after its descent, but also while physically disconnected from the Prophet ﷺ.
o Thus, the Prophet ﷺ would order Zayd (Radhia Allahu Anhu) to read back the recitation, and after the correctness of the recital was verified, the latest portion of the Qur’an would be made known to the people at large.
o There were also many other Companions who would also write down the Wahy, including the four rightly Guided Khalifs, Ubbay bin Ka’b, Zubayr bin Awwaam (Radhia Allahu Anhuma) and others.
o Some people might say that the list provided by “the party of the government” (the derisory term Shias use for us Sunnis) contains many Companions who were late-comers to Islam, so how can the writing down of Wahy be considered as determinative in such cases? There will be a need to ask about this from my side, but one probable answer seems to be that a Companion’s coming late to Islam does not preclude the possibility that the entire Qur’an up to that point would be dictated to him, and that he would continue writing the latest revelations from that point onwards.
o Besides, we never said that each and every single Verse in the Qur’an was dictated immediately after it was revealed, but rather that this was emerging practice that the Prophet ﷺ instituted in order to further strengthen the preservation of the Qur’an.
o ‘Uthman (Radhia Allahu Anhu) is reported to have specifically mentioned that the Prophet ﷺ commanded the scribes as to where each newly revealed portion of the Qur’an was to be placed. Having said this, we warn those who dislike ‘Uthman [that is it own huge sin] from saying that he concocted this saying. And to Allah are our supplications and He is our helper.
o Now, we know that certain Shias, even today say that the placement of the Verses within the Chapter was imposed by what they call “the party of the government”. What we tell such people is: “You know, this idea of yours invalidates your religion internally. It is inconceivable that one of your Usool is that the internal placement of the Verses is doubtful, and then you seek to reconcile with the other Asl, that the Ahadith are to be compared with the Qur’an.
o Now, let us say one more thing, which is that this Asl of the Shia seems to have been borrowed from the anti-Ash’ari, Mu’tazili camp. Even so, the Shias are so sloppy that they basically took this Asl of the Mu’tazila blindly.
o Wait, someone might say, what is this alleged Asl anyway? It is that the matn [text] of the Hadith is to be given huge priority and pre-eminence in comparison with the Isnad [chain of transmission] of the narration. There is no need to get very much in-depth into what the Sunnis’ system is at this junction.
o But what we absolutely need to point out is that certain Shias consider the text of the Qur’an to have been possibly jumbled in some places and with respect to certain Verses. So how can they “judge the matn of the Hadith” by comparing it logically with the “matn” of the Qur’an, when they are not even sure of the second Matn?
o If someone says that only some of the Shias holds this view, we say that in their earlier books this view of the internal text being misarranged was ascribed by their scholars as a Shia view. In our view this view cannot be dismissed so easily by saying that only this Shia scholar or that Shia scholar holds this position, simply because this view is central to the way in which Shias view their relationship to the Sunnis.
o So, coming back to the writing of the Qur’an, we see that the materials used were: stone slabs, parchments, date branches, bamboo units, tree leaves, and animal bones, and sometimes paper pieces were used as well.
o What is mentioned is that during the times of the Prophet ﷺ himself, a copy of the noble Qur’an existed which he had arranged to be committed to writing under his supervision. But note that it was not there as a formerly prepared book, but was rather as a form of various units of available writing materials. Moreover, since the early days of Islam, some of the Companions would make copies of the Qur’an for their personal use.
o There are a number of matters to be considered in here. Firstly, if a certain variant (a very big variant, let us say) is found in the written copy of a prominent Companion, this is not given any consideration except if that Companion taught the Qur’an in this variant reading and the chain from him is well-established. This is the biggest principle that we just have to keep in mind. So any objections coming from this angle are summarily dismissed if they do not meet the condition above.
o Also, again there is something from the Shias: They say that there was actually a full Mushaf during the Prophet’s ﷺ time that anyone could go to, pick up, and read. This is a strange narrative coming from them, since the revelation was ongoing, so the full order of the Qur’an would not be known until the very end of the Prophetic mission. So talk of a “fully readable Mushaf” that would be readily available is quite strange.
o Of course, we know the reason for this theory of the Shias: They want to say that it was only ‘Ali (Radhia Allahu Anhu) who collected the Qur’an and is the true, full transmitter of the Qur’an, and that all the Companions from the “governing party” basically “rode on his coattails” and gave themselves credit for something they did not do. We have to say that in such a situation, the Qur’an would not be said to be transmitted by Tawaatur, since only ‘Ali would be the only authorized transmitter along with the succeeding Imams. But then again, wouldn’t this chain the cut due to the occultation of their current Imam?
o This is one important point, since at some point they have to enter into the realm of fallible persons gaining certainty of knowledge through Tawaatur, but with the always imminent expectation of the return of the final Imam that has been a hallmark of the Shia psyche, it is difficult for them to develop a system for fallible transmission of information, whether in Ahadith, Qur;an recitation, or any other science of Islam. The most that may be expected is a hopeful post hoc application of some of the principles we Sunnis use in developing our religion, but without it having a proper referent to point to [since those who were supposed to meticulously pass the information from chest to chest were hoping for the imminent return of their Imam, and they would not pay so much attention to the development of Sanad and the like].
Preservation: In the Period of Sayyidna Abu Bakr (Radhia Allahu Anhu)
o It is mentioned that the above-mentioned copies of the Qur’an written during the Prophet’s ﷺ time would be on separate writing surfaces (parchment, tree leafs, bones). Some Companions would have few Verses, others one Chapter, others many Chapters. Additionaly, some Companions had explanatory sentences written alongside the text of the Verses.
o So with this being the situation, Abu Bakr (Radhia Allahu Anhu) thought it necessary to bring all of these copies together and have them preserved. Zayd bin Thabit (Radhia Allahu Anhu) mentions that he was called and told that a large number of Huffadh had been martyred at Yamamah, and that in order to have the Qur’an preserved (through an additional means), the decision was to have it collected under Zayd.
o Zayd (Radhia Allahu Anhu) says that the task was very difficult, but he was finally convinced that it was the right thing to do. He says that he started searching for the written Verses of the Qur’an from the branches of date palms, slabs of stones, and the hearts of people, until the whole Qur’an was collected by him.
o The Mufti (HA) mentions a very important point, which is concerning the method used by Zayd (Radhia Allahu Anhu) to collect the Qur’an. We should keep in mind that Zayd was himself a Hafidh of the Qur’an, and could have written down the entire Qur’an from memory himself. Also, there were hundreds of Huffadh present at that time, and the Qur’an could have been fully written by entrusting the matter to a small group of them. Also, the copies of the Qur’an committed to writing during the time of the Prophet ﷺ could have been used.
o So there were already many options available in order to carry out this work with “relative” ease. However, Zayd (RAA) was very concerned about the Qur’an, so he used all the methods at his disposal simultaneously. He did not allow any Verse to be included in the Qur’an unless he received written and verbal testimonies proving its proper chain.
o This, in addition to the copy he had written himself during the Prophet’s ﷺ time. So he collected this, and made the public proclamation that anyone possessing any number of written Verses should bring them over to himself.
o Whenever a Verse was brought forth, the following four methods were used to verify its authenticity: (1) He tested its reliability against his own memory (2) ‘Umar (Radhia Allahu Anhu), who was also a Haafidh, was entrusted to work alongside Zayd and therefore provided double verification. (3) Two trustworthy witnesses had to come to testify to the fact that a particular Verse had been written in the presence of the Prophet ﷺ. (4) Also, these Verses in writing were collated with the different collections the Companion had prepared.
o The above discussion is very important to keep in mind. From this, we can understand Ahadith such as the one were Zayd (RAA) says that he found the last 2 Verses of Sura at-Tawbah only with Abu Khudhyama (Radhia Allahu Anhu) and with no one else. See, this means that Abu Khudhayma (RAA) was the only one who had written these Verses separately under the supervision of the Holy Prophet ﷺ.
o It does not mean that no other person remembered these Verses, or no one else knew they were part of the Qur’an. It also does not mean that it was not with anyone else in written form. Rather, the situation is as above: For these particular criteria set forth by Zayd (Radhia Allahu Anhu) for the task of collecting the Qur’an, Abu Khudhayma (Radhia Allahu Anhu) was the one who possessed the Verses along with the four conditions mentioned above.
o We have to keep this in mind, since there are many enemies of Islam who may use the Ahadith mentioned before in order to sow the seeds of confusion among the Muslims. But, we should understand that these Ahadith, even the Saheeh ones, do not narrate the totality of the story, but rather there is more to it as recorded in other books. Of course, we need to also remember that, strictly speaking, the Qur’anic sciences are with the Qurra’, the “scholars of the Qur’an”. The Muhaditheen and the Ahadith can give us glimpses into the Qur’an and its recitation, but it can only give us glimpses, not the totality of the story, since the totality of the story was not meant to be its scope to begin with.
o The original copy was called the ‘Umm’ and it had the following features: (1) The Qur’anic Verses were internally arranged as per the Prophet’s ﷺ instructions, but the Surahs were not arranged in order (2) Incorporated in this copy were all seven Ahruf, which has been mentioned before (3) All Verses the recitation of which had not been abrogated were included (4) This copy was made, so that with the agreement of the Ummah, it could be referred to when necessary.
o So the story of these copies of folios was that they remained with Abu Bakr, then ‘Umar, then Hafsa (Radhia Allahu Anhum). They were then burned by Marwan al-Hakam (Rahimahulla), since there had reached a consensus in the nation that the master copy of the Qur’an with its arrangement of Suras determined, was the copy to be followed by the entire Muslim nation.
Preservation: In the period of Sayyidna ‘Uthman (Radhia Allahu Anhu)
o When ‘Uthman (Radhia Allahu Anhu) became Khalifa, Islam had reached many different lands. The Mujahidin, traders, or in general the Companions and the Tabi’een taught the different people the Qur’an based on what they had learned from the Prophet ﷺ, and this included the different readings mentioned before.
o Of course, previously this issue of different readings was not a problem, since the Companions and those very close to them knew about the different readings and their collective acceptability. However, when the matter reached other lands, there were people who learnt the Qur’an one way, but simply did not know about the existence of other readings. And this is where the problem of potential Takfir (calling someone a disbeliever) based on lack of knowledge may have cropped up. This is what can be gleaned from the Hadith of Hudhayfa (Radhia Allahu Anhu) on what he saw during his Jihaad on the Armenian front.
o The need then, was to spread out copies of the text of the Qur’an which incorporated all the readings, and which could be used to differentiate between the correct and incorrect readings. It is also mentioned that the seriousness of the issue had already been sensed by ‘Uthmaan (RAdhia Allahu Anhu) himself in Madinah, as some students and teachers would be confused regarding the acceptability of certain recitations. So after consulting with the major Companions, he decided to unite everyone on one master Book.
o So with this in mind, Uthman (Radhia Allahu Anhu) obtained the original folios from Hafsa (Radhia Allahu Anha) and made a committee of four Companions to make several copies based on the ‘Umm’ copy (Later other Companions joined them in this task).
o Note that when ‘Uthman (Radhia Allahu Anhu) said that if they differed they should write it in the language of the Quraysh, this meant the writing of the letters, not that the phrases and Ayaat were altogether different between the different Companions.
o The following functions were performed by them: (1) The Surahs were placed in their appropriate order (2) The Verses of the Qur’an were written in a skeletal fashion, so that all possible correct readings could be incorporated in this master copy. For example, what was written was ننسرها, so that it could be recited both as نُنْشْزُهَا and نَنْشُرُهَا, since both were correct within the parameters of the accepted readings. (3) Multiple copies were made from the original first copy. The number of these copies was seven, one kept in Madinah itself, the rest sent to Makkah, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Basrah, and Kufa. (4) The group of Companions worked through the pages of the Qur’an from the ‘Umm’ copy, but they also used the method of requiring written and verbal testimonies for every written portion of the Qur’an they included in the Master Book. This time one Ayah of Surah al-Ahzaab as found only with Thaabit al-Ansari.
o Again, as in the previous case, it does not mean that no one else remembered this Verse of its being part of the Qur’an, but only that it was with this Companion that the Verse was found separately satisfying the conditions we had mentioned before. Note that this Verse of Surah al-Ahzaab was also there in the ‘Umm’ copy of the Qur’an, so the issue of it “coming out of the blue” does not even arise.
o After the preparation of these master copies, ‘Uthmaan (Radhia Allahu Anhu) had all the privately made copies of the Qur’an in the possession of the Muslims burnt. This was in order to avoid potential confusion since someone without proper knowledge may have seen different scripts or ways of writing and concluded that they were altogether different “Qur’ans”. Or someone may have seen some explanatory notes in the personal Masahif and thought that this was actually part of the Qur’an. Of course, the main route for the preservation of the Qur’an is oral, but we can very clearly see just how one tangential issue may become overblown if proper steps are not taken to properly handle the situation.
o Thus, the entire Ummah agreed upon this decision, an there was only some unhappiness from Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (Radhia Allahu Anhu); the Mufti (Hafidhahulla) does not mention more about it, but we can be sure that this was not a long-standing technical differebce, since the recitation of the Qur’an common amongst us comes from Ibn Mas’ud (Radhia Allahu Anhu) himself (of course, from among others); so this is a proof that the disagreement was about something else [from what I have read in other places, it was about the pre-eminence of the oral transmission being superseded by the introduction of a “Master Book”, and that some Muslims may have thought that the written copies could be referred to without need for live teachers. This is in fact the same position of the Muslim Ummah as a whole, but there may be different emphasis on matters from different people, but none of these really come up to the level of a technical difference].
o The statement of ‘Ali (Radhia Allahu Anhu) in this respect is also important, since he was a witness to the fact that ‘Uthman (Radhia Allahu Anhu) did a correct thing, and that it was done with the approval and consent of the Muslim nation. In one narration (not mentioned here), ‘Ali says that had he been the Caliph at that time he would have done the same thing that ‘Uthman did.
o Before I move on to the next section, there is something that certain objectors may ask, which is that what would happen if there was a Verse that was mass-transmitted orally, but the written backing for it could not be found, would that not count as something of the Qur’an being lost? I will need to ask about the technicalities behind this.
o But as a provisional answer, I would say that the objector would have to bring up such supposed “Verses” up to the time that he believes they were mass-transmitted orally. This is because even with the introduction of the “Master Book”, such so-called “Verses” would still linger for quite some time within the oral tradition of the community, so such a supposition would need to have some sort of traces within the oral tradition before they can even taken up for scholarly refutation. However, the truth is that even the issue of “abrogated Verses” did not cause any confusion for the Muslim Ummah at all: No one from among the Qurra said that such Verses should actually be part of the Qur’an and that they should be placed at such and such location, because such an issue did not arise in this form.
Steps taken to Facilitate Recitation
o After the copies of the Qur’an were written and distributed, the Ummah decided that it was not permissible to write the text of the Qur’an except with the ‘Uthmani script. So notice that this script refers to the skeletal structure of the letters and how these were to be represented.
o However, the copies of the Qur’an were still without dots, vowel points, or desinential marks, and this made it difficult for the non-Arabs to recite the Qur’an easily (I need to ask about how this relates to the oral teaching of the Qur’an, since the whole idea of having a skeletal script was so that people would not recite the Qur’an by themselves, but rather seek teachers in this area).
Inclusion of Dots
o The Mufti (HA) does mention here some partial answer connected to this issue, in that literate Arabs would be able to read dotless writing without much difficulty by referring to the context, and thus, the practice of placing dots in the text simply was not there. In the case of the Qur’an, the possibility of doubt was even less for the lay reader, since the preservation was based on the memories of the Muslims, and learning for the Qaaris.
o There are different reports as to who first placed dots on the copies of the Qur’an, some say it was on the instructions of ‘Ali (RAA), others that it was under Hajjaj ibn Yusuf with the help of Hasan al-Basri and others from the Successors (Rahimahumulla).
Marks for correct reading
o The text of the Qur’an also lacked desinential marks at the beginning. And as above, the reports are at variance as to whom instructed for and placed their inclusion in the Qur’anic text.
o The Mufti mentions that at first, the Fathah was represented by a dot (.) over the letter, kasrah with a dot under the letter, and dammah with a dot in front of the letter, and two dots were placed for tanwin or nunnation.
o Then, the signs of hamzah (glottal stop) and tashdid (doubling) were invented, and it was Hajjaj ibn Yusuf who ordered for dots and desinential marks to be placed in the text of the Qur’an. It was on this occasion that the present forms of the desinential marks were chosen, and they replaced the dots placed earlier for the same purpose (because dots may have been either desinential marks or they could have belonged to the letters themselves).
Ahzaab or Manaazil
o The Ahzaab as defined here are seven divisions of the Qur’an. This was done in order to mark the places for recitation of the Qur’an in such a way that the whole Qur’an would be finished in one week as per the practice of the Companions and their Succesors.
Ajzaa’ or Parts
o Today the Qur’an is divided into thirty parts. This division is not connected with the meaning of the Qur’an, but it was done simply as a teaching aid for children. It is difficult to say when this division took place. Some say that it dates back to the time of ‘Uthman (Radhia Allahu Anhu) and that it has been known all along, but the Mufti (HA) mentions that he has not found any solid support of this view. And Allah knows best.
Akhmas and Ash’aar: The sets of Fives and Tens
o In the early Qur’anic copies, there was also a division into Akhmaas (a group of fives) and Ash’aar (a group of ten Verses). There was a difference of opinion about whether it was permissible or disliked by the Fuqaha to make this division. Again, there is also a difference in the historical records as to who was the original inventor of this idea, and the Mufti says it is very difficult to conclude anything with certainty about this matter.
Ruku’ or section
o The signs of Akhmaas and Ash’aar were eventually abandoned later on, but another sign was adopted, that of Ruku’, which continues to be used even to this day. The determination of this is based on the content of the Qur’an, and it is the identification of an average portion of Verses that could be recited in one Raka’ah. There are 540 Ruku’aat in the whole Qur’an, so that by reciting one Ruku’ in every unit of prayer in Taraawih, the whole Qur’an may be completed on the 27th night of Ramadhan. The Mufti mentions that he was unable to find anything authentic with respect to whom originated these Ruku’aat, or in what period.
Rumuuz al-Awqaaf: Stop Signs
o Another step taken in order to facilitate recitation was to provide signs within the Qur’an which could tell the nature of making a stop while reciting- that is, catching one’s breath, etc. They are called rumuuz (signs) or ‘Alaamaat (symbols) of awqaaf (stops). They help those who do not know Arabic from inadvertently making a change in the meaning, which may be possible if he does not know when to stop reciting, and when to stop. These signs were invented by ‘Allamah Sajaawandi.
o Now, before listing these signs, there is a doubt that may come up in the minds of some: they may say that we are narrating the story of how the text of the Qur’an came about, then we say that this person invented this and included it in the copies of the Qur’an, then along came another person and invented something else, then another inventor, etc… So how is it expected for anyone to believe that the Qur’an in our hands is the exact one revealed to Muhammad ﷺ, given all these inventions and new things?
o The answer is, as always, that these dots, signs, markings, colors, and so forth may serve the purpose of facilitating a certain issue, such as how much of the Qur’an should be read in a day. Or they may be more fundamental, related to the very reading of the Qur’anic text itself. In both of these cases, the ‘Aalim is required, either to tell you that, for example, the (ع) on the margin is for Rukuu’, or that the dot on the ن denotes the letter “Nuun” in Arabic. All of this may seem either very easy for the one who is familiar with the rules of reading in Arabic and/or the rules of Tajwiid [and now there are colorings in some copies of the text of the Qur’an for people who don’t even know this organically], or it may seem bewildering if someone has not had first-hand familiarity with the Qur’an.
o But the bottom line always is that one should learn through listening, their ears, and the correct movement of the mouth during recitation. The writing down of dots, signs, etc., is simply there to give one a sort of “secondary assistance”, not to bring about something new or to overhaul the original recitation.
o Allah knows best, and I will need to ask about this, but it may also be that, given the emotional attachment that Muslims have with the Qur’an, many lay people want to have a glimpse into the recitation of the Qur’an, even if for one reason or the other they are unable to attain formal instruction in its recitation. So for these people, certain markers have been placed in the text of the Qur’an, so that they will not commit egregious mistakes while reciting. This is also why more and more markings, signs, and colors are progressively seen: The familiarity of the lay Muslims with the core Qur’anic sciences of recitation is unfortunately becoming less and less, so there is an attempt to counterbalance this with the inclusion of such markers, so that at the very least serious errors are averted.
o So, these signs are as follows: (1) ط , abbreviation of al-waqf al-mutlaq; it is better to stop here since the statement is complete (2) ج , al-waqf al-jaaiz, means it is permissible to stop here (3) ز , for al-waqf al-mujawwaz; making a stop here is correct, but it is better to continue (4) ص , for al-waqf al-murakhkhas: The statement is not yet complete, but since the sentence has become long, if one should stop, he should do it here (5) م , for al-waqf al-laazim. If a stop is not made here, there will be a big distortion in the meaning. It has also been called al-waqf al-waajob, even though this is not the ‘waajib’ of Fiqh which brings sin of not done (6) لا, for laa taqif, ‘do not stop here’. But it actually means that if one does stop here, it is best to go back and read over again from a few words back, and starting the next breath from the next word is not approved.
o These signs were definitely invented by ‘Allamah Sajaawandi, but there are some further signs we see in the copies of the Qur’an, such as: (1) مع , for mu’aanaqah. When a Verse has two possible explanations, one of them connected to the first stop, and the second connected o the second stop, one may stop at either of the two words, but not at both. Also, if there is no stop at either of the words, that will also be correct. It has also been called ‘al-muqaabalah’. (2) سكته , for Saktah. One should break the sound but not the breath; generally inserted if continued reading may cause a wrong (projection) of meaning. (3) وقفه , waqfah, a stop that is a little longer than a saktah (4) ق , qiila alayhi al-waqf. Some Qur’anic phoneticians identify a stop while others do not (5) قف , qif, meaning stop, inserted because a reader may have thought a stop is not appropriate while in fact it is (6) صلى , al-waslu awla, it is better to recite in assimilated continuity. (7) صل , qad yuusalu, some stop here and other do not (8) ﷺ وقف عليه النبي , written where a proven report shows the Prophet ﷺ stopped in that place in his recital.
o I have written about these eight signs above, even though I have not come across a few of these in the form presented in here, and I need to ask how they collate with the copies of the text of the Qur’an normally in many of the Masaajids around the world. But perhaps many of the readers have a copy of the text of the Qur’an with exactly such signs, so the explanation above will be of use to them.
The printing of the Holy Qur’an
o Before the coming of the printing press, what we had were calligraphers of the Qur’an, who would spend their lives in writing down the text of the Qur’an.
o After the printing press, there were copies printed in 1113 AH, 1787 and 1828 C.E., and thereafter the printing of the Qur’an became commonplace. It is also mentioned that there was one printing done by Orientalists that was not well-received by Muslims. I will need to ask about the reasons behind this, but it may be that the Orientalists used their “Ijtihaad” in rearranging the Chapters, and perhaps even the Verses in whichever way they felt like, and this is something we would never agree to as a nation, particularly the rearranging of Verses.
An Introduction to the Science of Tafsir
o Now, we can see what the requisites for performing Tafsir are, which denotes an opening into the explanations and meanings of the Qur’an. As we know, the best Mufassir is the Prophet ﷺ himself, and this fact has been alluded to in the Qur’an itself.
o But after the Holy Prophet ﷺ passed on from this world, the field of Tafsir as a science had to be developed, so that not only the text of the Qur’an, but also its explanations could be passed down to the Muslim Ummah. This of course was an arduous task, as was the case with the codification of all the sciences of Islam.
The sources of Tafsir, which are six in number
(1) The Glorious Qur’an
o The Glorious Qur’an: The first source of Tafsir is the Qur’an itself. It happens quite often that a point is presented briefly in one place of the Qur’an and it is clarified in another place more fully. The example is given of Surah 1:6-7, where the ones whom Allah has bestowed His grace are mentioned, and in Verse 4:69 it is mentioned that these are the Prophets, their true followers, the martyrs, and the righteous. Thus, if something in the Qur’an explains some other part, the exegesists will go with it as their first option.
(2) The Ahadith
o The Prophet’s ﷺ life was a practical Tafsir of the Qur’an. As such, if there is a well-corroborated report attached to any Verse of the Qur’an, this will be taken by the interpreters as a second source. But then again, since Ahadith are of varying authenticity, then deducing the exegesis of a Verse based on any report one may find is incorrect to do, but is rather the prerogative of the scholars. This is particularly important to keep in mind today, when all of sorts of heretics, deviants, and even non-Muslims with their agendas come forth, saying that a certain Hadith mentions a certain thing about a particular Verse. So we should be particularly careful concerning this issue, and search the proper scholarly routes to dispel the doubts raised by our opponents.
(3) The Reports from the Sahabah
o As we know, the Companions received their education directly from the Holy Prophet ﷺ and witnessed the circumstances and backgrounds connected with the revelation of the Qur’an. Thus, their statements are much more authentic than the ones of people who came later. So if the previous two sources above do not shed light on the meaning of a Verse, the statements of the Companions will be given highest priority.
o Also, it should be noted that if an Ijma’ of the Companions reaches with respect to the meaning of a Certain Verse, then it is not permissible to interpret it in any other way.
o Of course, sometimes there are differences in the sayings of the Companions, and in order to prefer one over the other, the later scholars employ the rules of Usool of Fiqh, Hadith, and Tafsir in order to reach a conclusion.
(4) Reports from the Taabi’een or Successors
o Then come the Taabi’een, those from among the second generation of Muslims, who learnt the interpretation of the Qur’an from the Companions. Their statements have great importance as well, even though the scholars have different opinions on whether their statements are decisive evidence.
(5) The Arabic Language
o We know the Qur’an was revealed in the pure Arabic language, and thus, mastery of Arabic is necessary in order to explain the Qur’an. Consider that in a number of Verses, there are no circumstances of revelation, nor any juristic or scholastic question, and thus there are no reports neither from the Prophet ﷺ, the Companions, or the Successors. In such a case, a study on the Arabic of the text is employed in order to elucidate what the Verse means.
(6) Deliberation and Deduction
o Deliberation/deduction is the last source of Tafsir. Thus, it is possible to deduce new levels of meanings in the Qur’an based on the proper scholarly deliberation. We must remember that the Qur’an in its mysteries is an ocean with no shore, no end.
o Of course, the very important matter is that this deliberation is subsumed under the previous five sources of Tafsir, so if anything goes against the above 5 sources, then attention is not to be paid to such interpretations.
o The Mufti (HA) mentions that certain mystics (may Allah have mercy on them) started to describe subtleties and mysteries connected to many Verses, but if their personal opinion went against the other basic principles of Islam, these were not held to have any weight in Tafsir.
o Allah knows best, but I see that this also has a connection with the “scientific miracles in the Qur’an”. I mean that yes, there is considerable deliberation and work that goes into researching how a Verse may be connected to the latest findings in medicine, geology, etc. But the problem in here is that we have one Arabic word in the Qur’an that “could” have a certain meaning, and this is joined with the writings of some scientific journal or textbook to say that the Qur’an had elucidated the topic all along.
o The reader will see that whatever the strength of the connection between the word in that Ayah and the scientific postulate may be, in the best of cases what we will have is strong probabilistic (Thanni) evidence. Again, this is supposing that the connection is actually strong.
o The reason why it cannot be more than probabilistic evidence is because the Qur’an, and the sayings of the Prophet ﷺ and the early Muslims were never said against a background of Newtonian physics, quantum mechanics or anything of the like. Rather, in almost every case, the language used was that of the people living at that time and in that place, with the easily visible things and experiences serving as the background. Indeed, there are many amazing things mentioned in a number of narrations, but these are also mostly to do with the world of the unseen and how it interacts with this visible world.
o So if a Verse is found which contains some potentially interesting scientific data, but there is also a Prophetic commentary on this same Verse using down-to-earth language, the commentary of the Hadith will always be given priority. Maybe as a footnote or as an aside within that interpretation, it may be said that the scientific data may be incorporated with respect to the Verse in question, but note that this includes only sources number 5 and 6 in most cases – that is, the last two sources of Tafsir, so the relative weight is not as high as the first sources.
o This is one facet of the issue. The second is that the “scientific meta-narrative” itself is in fact rejected by Islam from the very start. “Why?” someone may ask. The reason is that modern science makes the assumption that material temporal causes actually and literally give rise to their effects. And this is a grave conceptual error that the Muslims should never ever fall into. So here is the conundrum: How can it be said that the Qur’an is “proved” by a field whose base assumption (in order for it to make “sense” of itself and its “place in this world”) is totally against what Islam teaches.
o The sagacious mind will come to understand that we may, at most, say that the Qur’anic Verse seems to include a certain correlation that has been observed by scientists, but we should be extremely careful concerning the philosophical pitfalls that some may fall into.
The rules relating to Israelite reports
o Now, there are what we call Israiliyaat, which are narrations from Jewish and Christian sources.
o Take note of the fact that early commentators used to write down all narrations which recorded to them from an identified source. (This is obviously why the fact that something is written in some historical books is not necessarily a proof in Islam).
o Now, a number of Companions and the Tabie’en first belonged to the Jewish or Christian communities before their conversion to Islam. After their conversion and while they were reciting the Qur’an, they found things therein (i.e. events narrated therein) that they had also read about in their own books. Thus, they would at times mention these stories in front of Muslims. These are what we term as Israiliyaat.
o Ibn Kathir (Rahimahulla) has said that there are 3 kinds of Israiliyaat: (1) Those narrations the truth of which is known from other evidences from the Qur’an itself and the Prophetic Sunnah, such as the drowning of Fir’awn, and the ascent of Musa (Alayhi Salaam) to Mount Tuur. (2) Those narrations that are necessarily shown to be false. For example, the Bible says that Dawuud (Alayhi Salaam) committed adultery with some woman and that he killed the husband of that lady to cover up his own crimes. Even worse that this, Sulaymaan (Alayhi Salaam) is presented as an apostate, and this last part is refuted in the Qur’an in Verse 2:102. We as Muslims must absolutely reject such narrations of the Bible, they are absolutely false. (3) Then there are some narrations, which the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the Sharia are silent, for example, whether what the Torah mentions as the rules to follow are what the Jews say they are. In such cases, silence is to be maintained. And what is said is that while it is permissible to report such narrations, at the end of the day such reporting is useless since none of it can be taken as authentic
A misconception about the Tafsir of the Qur’an
o So we know that making a Tafsir of the Qur’an is a very difficult matter. The one who undertakes this must have a deep knowledge of the syntax, etymology, rhetoric, and literature of the Qur’an, and also, knowledge of the Ahadeeth, principles of Fiqh and Tafseer, Aqeedah, and scholastics. These fields are basically necessary for Tafseer.
o Of course, we know that today the Ummah is in deep difficulty, and one of the reasons connected to this matter is that certain Muslims think that if they can read common Arabic, or have only passable familiarity with the Arabic language, they can start to pass commentaries on the Qur’an, even to the point of criticizing classical commentaries. Not only this, but some people are so bold that they read a translation and then start passing “Fataawa” based on the Qur’an, not knowing anything about the reality of the matter.
o The Mufti (HA) mentions what has been mentioned before many times, that as an analogy, it is not enough to know English in order to start carrying out sensitive medical operations, and saying that this is alright since the person has browsed or read the books on medicine in the library. This is the same case with all the secular arts and sciences.
o The Mufti (HA) also mentions that in every department of life, every one acts upon the principle that the art or science under discussion has its own particular method of learning and its own way to achieve mastery in it. So I ask: Why should the knowledge of Islam be considered so lowly that everyone can become a master of it overnight? Why are we allowing the spirit of the so-called “Enlightenment” to take over our minds with respect to the proper way to learn Islam? This is something that has to be analyzed and reflected over by those who reflect.
o So people cite the Verse of the Qur’an: وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ (And surely we have made the Qur’an easy for counsel) and such people say that since the Qur’an itself says that it is an easy book, so there is no need for us to go deeply into any sciences in order to understand the Qur’an or to deduce rulings from the Holy Book. They claim that anyone can pick up the Qur’an or its translation and presto, Fiqhi rulings can be deduced.
o However, this argument only shows the simple-mindedness of the person bringing this matter up, and does not affect the need for expertise in the arena of interpreting the Qur’an. The Mufti mentions that the Verses of the Qur’an are in fact of two kinds. First, there are those Verses that offer general good counsel, they relate historical facts from which we can take general lessons, and introduce subjects dealing with taking warning for ourselves in this world and the next. Examples of such Verses are those dealing with the mortality of this world, the truth of Paradise and Hellfire, the Verses that will create the fear of Allah, and so forth. It is these kinds of Verses that have been named as being easy, and anyone who knows Arabic can benefit and understand them. This is the easy Dhikr [good counsel] that has been mentioned by the Verse under discussion.
o There are two other things as well: Firstly, the Dhikr also refers to the recitation of the Qur’an and memorization of the Holy Book. It obviously does not follow that an exhaustive deduction of rulings would follow from the ability to recite the Qur’an well. The science of Qira’at and of Tajweed is one thing, and the science of Tafseer and of Usool al-Fiqh is something else, and each one has its own rules and regulations.
o Another matter is that sometimes we see that one can indeed understand a good set of matters from a Qur’anic Verse, but a deeper understanding of all the rulings that may be derived from this Verse, or many more of the facets of understanding connected with that Verse, will be possible only when certain background knowledge is held by the interpreter.
o Now, in addition to the first type of Verse, there are others that include more in-depth matter, such as laws, Aqeedah, and intellectual subjects. As mentioned before, these types of Verses need the pre-requisites to be in order. This is why the Companions themselves, whose Arabic was flawless, used to spend long periods of time with the Prophet ﷺ for the purpose of learning the Qur’an. For example, it has been mentioned that ‘Uthmaan and Ibn Mas’ud (RAA) would learn ten Verses of the Qur’an and they would not move ahead to the next portion until they had covered everything practically and intellectually related to such Verses.
o And there is a quote mentioned here as well, where they say that they learnt the Qur’an, the knowledge, and the practicalities of action altogether.
o We also notice that Ibn ‘Umar (RAA) took eight years to learn Surah al-Baqarah, and Anas (RAA) mentioned that the ones who learned Surah al-Baqarah and Aal-Imraan had their status highly raised in the eyes of the community. Of course, the issue arises that this long time does not seem congruent with the fact that the Companions were Arabs who had absolutely no difficulty in memorizing long poems and other things.
o But the answer, as the reader may know, is that they wanted to learn as much about the meanings of the Qur’an in addition to its text directly from the Prophet ﷺ or from those who had learned from him.
o So the matter is reiterated, that if the Companions, in spite of being experts in the Arabic language, still needed to be with the Prophet ﷺ in order to become scholars in the field of Tafseer, does it not seem totally out of the normality that someone comes in our midst today and starts passing commentaries on the Qur’an, his only “credential” being that he read some translations of the Qur’an?
o Such people must remember two narrations of the Prophet ﷺ, the first one where he said that whosoever speaks about the Qur’an without knowledge should prepare his abode in Hellfire, and the other where he ﷺ said that the one ho speaks about the Qur’an based only on his opinion, the view that he gives is counted as a mistake with Allah the Exalted, even if he happened to be correct about what he said.
o We must consider that this religion of Islam came to make things easy and to forgive people as much as possible, and yet the seriousness of the situation is made very much palpable when we see that the one who is right based only on his opinion has still sinned by not referring matters to its rightful people.
Famous Commentaries of the Qur’an
o Of course, since the Qur’an is deeply revered by the Muslims, there have been a huge number of commentaries on the Qur’an. What the Mufti (HA) will do is to provide some brief introduction to the commentaries most referenced by the Ma’ariful Qur’an (the present Tafsir). These commentaries are as follows:
Tafsir ibn Jarir
o Its real name is Jaami’ al-Bayaan, compiled by Abu Ja’far ibn Jareer at-Tabari (RA). As many of the readers know, at-Tabari was a well-known historian, exegete and Hadith scholar. His writings are quite well-known and extensive, to the point that it is said that he used to write 40 pages every day for 40 years (which is more than half a million pages).
o However, the truth is also that just as in his historical work, in his Tafsir, at-Tabari has written narrations of all sorts, weak and strong. What the Mufti (HA) says is that at-Tabari tried to compile all the material available to him, so that this material could be put to use later on. This is also why the chain of narrators is mentioned in his works, so that those who came at a later time could check his references and check for themselves concerning the veracity of the narrations found in his Tafsir [Of course, in here these people who can check from themselves to those who have the tools to discern weak from strong traditions, not just that anyone picking up a book of Rijaal criticism can now weed out the strong from the weak overnight]
Tafsir ibn Katheer
o By Imam Isma’eel Ibn Katheer ad-Dimashqi (RA). The salient feature of this Tafsir are the explanatory narrations found therein, and the fact that Ibn Katheer was himself a Hadith expert, so he placed therein those narrations which had a greater degree of authenticity according to his method.
o The full name of this Tafseer is al-Jaami’ Li Ahkaam al-Qur’an by Abi Bakr ibn Farah al-Qurtubi (RA). Al-Qurtubi was a Maaliki in Fiqh, and the main purpose of his exegesis was to deduce juristic rulings from the Qur’an. But while he was doing this, he also delved into the explanation of Verses, research into difficult words, discussion on diacritical marks, the Balaagha (rhetorical) aspects of the Qur’aan as well as Ahadeeth and other reports related to the interpretation.
o This is the Tafsir of Fakhr ad-Deen ar-Raazi (RA). Its real name is Mafateeh al-Ghayb. Ar-Raazi was an Imaam of theology, and thus, in his Tafseer, great emphasis was placed on rational and scholastic debates, as well as refutations of false ideologies. It is likely that ar-Raazi completed up to Surah al-Fath, but after that, the Tafsir was finished by either one of the two: Qaadhi Shihaab ad-Deen ad-Dimashqii or Shaykh Najm ad-Deen al-Qarmili.
o As mentioned, Imam Ar-Raazi has gone into dialectics and refutations, up to the point that his Tafsir has become quite lengthy at some places, and people have said that there is everything in it except Tafsir. But this is incorrect, as his Tafsir resolves many issues concerning the meaning of the Qur’an. The only other things that may be said is that ar-Raazi (RA) has strayed from the consensus of the nation in some things, but these are few and far between, and they can be dealt with in their appropriate time (I need to ask about whether it really means consensus of the nation or what the majority of the nation held, since there is a difference between the two).
Tafsir al-Bahr al-Muhit
o By Allaamah Abu Hayyaan, who was an expert in syntax and rhetoric, in addition to the normal Islamic sciences; thus, his exegesis places special stress on investigating the words of every Verse, points of eloquence, and structure of the language.
Ahkaam al-Qur’an by al-Jassaas
o By Abu Bak al-Jassaas (RA), who is one of the prominent Hanafi jurists. In his Tafsir, he concentrates on the deduction of rulings and injunctions from the Qur’an. He does not discuss the Verses serially, but rather takes up Fiqhi details as called for by the appropriate Verses.
Tafsir ad-Duur al-Manthuur
o This was by Jalaal ad-Diin as-Suyuuti (RA). And in here he tried to collect all narrations connected with a particular Verse and its Tafsir. Of course, this had been worked on before, and as-Suyooti assembled his work from the writings of all these previous scholars. This methodology obviously means that many weak and unauthentic narrations are found in his work. At times, as-Suyooti mentions that a certain narration is of a certain grading, but since he was known to be lenient in this regard, his grading can also not be relied upon exclusively.
o Written by Qaadhi Panipaati (RA). He has given simple and clear elucidations of the Qur’anic Verses and the Qur’anic words contained therein. He has also taken up related narrations and scrutinized them more than other commentators.
o Written by Allamah Mahmud al-Alusi (RA). This Tafsir is quite extensive, and covers linguistics, jurisprudence, Islamic beliefs, scholastics, astronomy, Tassawwuf, and Ahadeeth narratives. He has done an extra effort not to leave any intellectual matter connected to the Qur’anic Verses untouched. Given the extensiveness and thoroughness of the work, future scholars cannot afford to ignore it.
o Let me just say one thing, which is that a number of these works of the great scholars of the past were actually much longer than their present (still expansive) length. For example, if my recollection is correct, it was said that Ar-Raazi (RA) had prepared his original Tafsir in the tens of thousands of pages, but he was told to reduce it in size (since who is going to read so many pages?). So then ar-Raazi (RA) condensed his work to only eight volumes and only a few thousand pages. Many more examples can be given of other scholars, but this one example will suffice.
Surah al-Fatihah: Al-Fatihah (The Opening), Makkan Surah with seven Verses
o There are special merits to Al-Fatihah. The Qur’an begins with it, our prayers begin with it, and even in the order of revelation this was the first Chapter to be revealed in full. Some Verses of Suras al-‘Alaq, al-Muzzammil, al-Muddaththir had been revealed prior to this Chapter, but this was the first full Chapter revealed to the Prophet ﷺ.
o Concerning some of the Companions’ statements to the effect that this was the first Surah to be revealed, they meant the first full Surah to be revealed, not that absolutely nothing else of the Qur’an had been revealed before this.
o Also, the Fatihah is the quintessence of the Qur’an, and the rest of the Qur’an is its elaboration.
o There are two reasons for delineating this Surah. First, the whole Qur’an is either about Imaan (faith) or al-‘Amal al-Saalih (virtuous deeds), and the basic principles of these two matters have been indicated in this Chapter. Thus, we see that this Surah is called the Umm al-Qur’an (Mother of the Qur’an), Umm al-Kitaab (Mother of the Book), and al-Qur’aan al-Azim (The Great Qur’an).
o Note that the phrase “Al-Qur’an al-Adheem” applied to Surah al-Fatihah is just a title to express the comprehensiveness of the Chapter. No one should come forth and say that the Muslims were not sure if the rest of the Qur’an was truly the Qur’an, and other such sorts of allegations. Of course, such an allegation is silly, but one cannot even imagine what sorts of things are brought up by the non-Muslims with the sole intention of causing Muslims to leave the religion.
o Now, the second reason for delineating this Surah is that it gives a special instruction to the person who begins the study of the Qur’an. He should approach the Qur’an with an open mind and hoping only to be guided to the truth by Allah. We see that the Surah begins with the praise of Allah and finishes with the request for guidance. Then, in Surah al-Baqarah, the answer is given in the form of “Alif. Laam. Meem. This is the Book in which there is no doubt. A guidance…” This shows that the sincere seeker’s request has been answered by means of the Qur’an.
o The Prophet ﷺ emphasized the point of the special position of the Fatihah, to the point of saying that there was nothing like it in the Zabur, the Tawrah, the Injeel, and that even the other Chapters of the Qur’an cannot compare with it [I will need to ask about what does this last portion mean, that is, what is the type of comparison that is being made with respect to the rest of the Qur’an. It seems to be referring to the quintessence of the Qur’an being present in this very Chapter.] Thus, we know that this is the greatest from among the Suras of the Qur’an.
o Moreover, the Prophet ﷺ has said that this Surah is a cure for all illnesses – and it has been named ‘Al-Shifa’ (the cure) according to on Hadeeth.
Bismillah is a Verse of the Holy Qur’an
o So the Tafseer begins by discussing the Bismillah. The author mentions that there is consensus that the Bismillah al-Rahmaan ar-Raheem is a verse of the Holy Qur’an, as it occurs in Surah an-Naml (the Ant, #27). And of course, there is also agreement that it is written at the top of every Surah except Surah al-Tawbah.
o However, there is a difference of opinion as to whether this Bismillah is an integral part of the Fatihah, or of all the Surahs, or not. According to Imam Abu Hanifah (RA), the Bismillah is not an integral part of any Chapter except Surah an-Naml, but it is rather an independent Verse of the Qur’an revealed in order to separate and distinguish one Surah from the other.
The merits of Bismillah
o Note that the Jaahili Arabs used to begin everything they did invoking the names of their idols and false gods. It was in order to eradicate this practice from the beginning of Islam that the first Verse revealed to the Prophet ﷺ was (translation): “Read with the name of your Lord…”
o Imam As-Suyooti (RA) says that all previous divine books also began with Bismillah, while other scholars said that Bismillah Ar-Rahmaan ar-Raheem is peculiar to the Qur’an and the Muslims. This is reconciled by saying that all divine books begin with the name of Allah, but the exact words of our Bismillah are peculiar to the Qur’an. This is also borne out by the Hadith where it is mentioned that the Prophet ﷺ used to begin his works with the words [Bismika Allahuma] but after the words Bismillahi Rahmani Raheem were revealed, he adopted these words and it was established as his practice.
o The Qur’an instructs to the above fact repeatedly, and the Prophet ﷺ has said that no important work receives Allah’s blessings unless it is begun in His Name. Then, there is another Hadeeth that mentions that closing the door to one’s house, putting out the lamp, and covering a vessel should be done with the recitation of Bismillah. This is in addition to reciting Bismillah while taking food, performing Wudhu, getting on and off a means of transportation, and many other activities.
o So consider the huge difference between the current world set-up (in which the existence of Allah Himself is not acknowledged), and the life of the pious Muslims, who invoke the name of Allah and ask for His Protection even when they are going to make love to their spouses. This is a point to ponder upon.
o Thus, by instructing man to begin everything with Bismillah, Islam gives to man a whole new orientation to his life so that he understands that not even a single step can be taken without the Power and Will of Allah. Thus, there is ‘sacralization’ in all of man’s activities. The disbelievers also eat, drink, sleep, and get up just as the Muslim does, but for the Muslim, there is a renewing of the relationship with Allah in all of these activities, and they become acts of worship. It is also a way of giving thanks to Allah for having brought together all the materials and manpower necessary so that he may eat, drink, get on a car, and so forth. Humility is also developed with this simple act of remembrance.
o The Sunnah is to recite the Ta’awwudh [translation: I seek refuge with Allah from Satan – the accursed] and then the Bismilla. And it is also Sunnah to recite the Bismilla at the beginning of every Surah except Sura at-Tawbah during the recitation
o Bismillah: This is composed of three words – the letter ‘Ba’, ‘Ism’, and ‘Allah’. ‘Ba’ is a preposition and it has three connotations that are relevant in here. (1) Contiguity (2) Seeking the aid of someone or something. (3) Seeking the blessings of someone.
o The word ‘Ism’ has in fact many lexical and intellectual nuances not relevant to this discussion. So we just it is translated as ‘Name’ in English.
o Next, the word ‘Allah’. This is the greatest and most comprehensive of the divine names, and according to a number of Prophetic traditions, it is the ‘Al-Ism al-Azam’ [the Greatest Name], the name that has such weight that a prayer is granted when this name is mentioned. The word ‘Allah’ refers to the Essence of the Divine Being and it is impossible for it to be attributed to any Being other than Allah. This is also why this word has no plural, or dual, since it does not befit Allah to have associates.
o So, we see that ‘Bismillah’ has three connotations based on how the preposition ‘Ba’ is used: (a) With the name of Allah (b) With the help of the name of Allah (c) With the barakah or benediction of the name of Allah.
o Now, an important consideration is mentions: This phrase remains incomplete unless one mentions the exact work that one wishes to undertake with the name of Allah. Thus, according to grammar rules in Arabic, some verb is (implicitly) understood to be the referent when uttering this formula (for example, ‘I begin my recitation with the name of Allah’
o Now, a point of Adab (propriety): One is not to place this verb before the name of Allah, but rather after it, so that one actually does begin with the name of Allah. However, the ‘Ba’ is to be placed before the name of Allah, since it is an absolute exigency of the Arabic language.
o But in here also, the Companions did the utmost to preserve Adab in this respect too, as is obvious when one considers the ‘Uthmani script of the Qur’an. Normally, we would have written بِاسْمِ اللّه, with the letter ‘Alif’ as one can see in here. But, the consensus of the Companions was to drop the ‘Alif’ and to join the ‘Ba’ with the ‘Seen’, so that ‘Ba’ would look as if it was part of the word ‘Ism’. The whole effect would be to start with the ‘name of Allah’. So this is why in other parts of the Qur’an one sees بِاسْمِ, but for Bismillah, the ‘Alif’ is dropped and what we have is بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ
o (It seems there is a missing part in the text itself and I will pick up from the position the text is at) There are two attributes of Allah mentioned in the Bismillah, which are ar-Rahmaan and ar-Raheem (translated respectively as ‘All-Merciful’ and ‘Very Merciful’). So we have to make a distinction between these two names of Allah. ‘Rahmaan’ means the Being whose mercy is common to all, and extends to the whole Universe and it extends even to everything that is yet to come into existence. And ‘Rahim’ signifies the one whose mercy is perfect in all possible ways.
o Thus, ‘Rahmaan’ is the exclusive attribute of Allah, and no created being can be referred to as ‘Rahmaan’. In this sense then, it is like the word ‘Allah’, in that there is no dual or plural for this word. It is impossible for any created Being’s mercy to be all-embracing and all-inclusive.
o For ‘Raheem’ though, there is nothing that would prevent it from being applied to created beings. For example, it is possible for a person to be ‘perfectly merciful’ in his dealings with another man, and this is why the Qur’an itself calls the Prophet ﷺ as the one who is very merciful towards the believers.
o Ruling: Those who abbreviate Abdur-Rahmaan into ‘Rahman’ are doing an impermissible thing which is counted as a sin.
o We know that both ar-Rahmaan and Ar-Raheem derive from the root ‘Rahmah’ [mercy]. This indicates the all-pervasiveness and perfection of divine mercy. It also points out that the creation and sustenance of the whole creation has no other motivation than manifesting Allah’s quality of Mercy. Allah obviously had no need of these beings He created, but only His Mercy is that which has ‘required’ Him to create and sustain the whole Universe. The author (RA) brings a couple of lines of poetry from ar-Rumi emphasizing this point.
o Some people may say that how is it possible that we say that Allah’s Mercy is all-encompassing while He sends many of the Creation to Hellfire? I will need to ask about this in more depth, but what seems obvious is that Allah’s being ‘Ar-Rahmaan’ [All-merciful] does not mean that punishments for the creatures are precluded by that. Otherwise, even a small pain or suffering in this world would have also been impossible. So this could be a subtle theological point that has not been discussed by the author since the issue was not raised at this point, but which may be there in other books of scholars. And this may also have to do with ways of defining the term ‘Ar-Rahmaan’ in the Arabic language as far as Allah is concerned – and again this is a deeper matter. But we definitely know that Allah’s being Ar-Rahmaan does not mean that He cannot (Wal Iyadhu Billa) or does not punish His Creation as He sees it fit.
o I will mention another thing based on the little that I know before moving on, that Allah’s Being Ar-Rahmaan does not mean that He provides mercy to all the creatures at all times of their existence. This is again a confluence between more subtle theological and linguistic points that have not been discussed here in this Tafsir, but which may become obvious if we pursue the matter in more depth. But as I mentioned before I will need to ask the scholars concerning this issue, and I may need some of the things written here concerning this issue.
Injunctions and related considerations
o The Holy Qur’an itself tells us to seek protection with Allah from the Shaytaan. Thus, it is Sunnah to say Ta’awwudh before the recitation of the Qur’an, but it is also peculiar to the Qur’an, insofar as other activities are to begin directly with Bismilla without Ta’awwudh.
o So, the rule is that one should begin the recitation of the Qur’an with Ta’awwudh and Bismillah. If one ends a certain chapter and begins the next one, then he should say Bismillah but not the Ta’awwudh – with the exception of Surah at-Tawbah, where he should just continue reading without either of the two (although I have heard some recording prepared where the Ta’awwudh is mentioned, so I need to ask concerning what our scholars say concerning such matters). But if a person begins recitation with Surah at-Tawbah, then both Ta’awwudh and Bismillah are to be recited.
o (As per the Fiqhi opinion of the Hanafi school) the Bismillah is a Verse of the Holy Qur’an when it occurs between two Chapters of the Qur’an. It is also part of a Verse in Surah an-Naml (and there is no difference of opinion among Muslims concerning this matter). Thus, all the rules that apply with respect to Wudhu and Ghusl for reciting the Qur’an also apply to the Bismillah. But it is permissible to recite it (for a woman in her menses, for example) as a form of prayer such as when starting to eat or to drink.
o (1) It is a Sunnah to recite Bismillah after Ta’awwudh at the beginning of the first Raka’ah in the Salat. The difference is as to whether it should be in a low or a loud voice [in the loud prayers]. There is also consensus that it is Sunnah to recite Bismillah in the succeeding Raka’at; some narrations point to the recitation of the Bismillah in every Raka’ah as Waajib or necessary.
o (2) During the Salah, one is not to recite the Bismillah before beginning a Surah other than al-Faatiha, since there is not enough textual support for such a practice. This is the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa (RA), Abu Yusuf (RA), and is also mentioned elsewhere. However, Imam Muhammad (RA) has said that it is Mustahhab (recommended) to recite the Bismillah in silent prayers, and this has been included in certain other books as well.
o In any case, reading Bismilla in this case is not Makruh (reprehensible) [I need to ask about the reprehensibility for reciting Bismilla for a Surah after al-Faatiha in a loud prayer, or if one has to make up some Rak’ats of a loud prayer].
Surah al-Fatiha (the Opening) Makkan; Verses 7
o First of all, the full Surah al-Fatihah is presented along with its translation. As we know al-Fatihah has seven Verses, the first three are in praise of Allah and the last three contain a request/prayer from men to Allah, which has been taught by Allah Himself in His infinite Mercy. The middle Verse has both features of praise and prayer.
o In Sahih Muslim there is a Hadith where the Prophet ﷺ says that Allah has said: The Salah (prayer, but in this case al-Faatihah) is divided between Me and My servant and My servant shall be given what he prays for.
o After the first Ayah, the slave has paid homage to Allah, after the second, the slave has praised Allah, after the third, the slave has proclaimed Allah’s greatness. After the fourth, Allah says that He will grant the servant what he has prayed for. And after the rest of the Surah, Allah grants this request to His servant.
o The first word, Alhamdullilah, shows that praise belongs essentially to Allah. And if we praise anything in the world, we are ultimately praising Allah, since behind all the different created things, there is unity insofar as their Creator is One.
o The word Alhamdullilah also implies that one should only submit one’s self to Allah for adoration and worship, and brings out the most basic principle of Islam- the Oneness of Allah.
o Next, is the word, Rabb. This carries the significance of nurturing, or developing a thing until it attains perfection. Rabb is exclusive to Allah, and cannot be used for any of the Creation without adding some qualification, since we are all in need of nurturing from Allah.
o Next, is the word al-‘Alameen, which is the plural of ‘world’. This includes all the existents we know if in our Universe. But what is of note is that ar-Raazi (RA) said3 that an indefinite space beyond our Universe can be proved from this Verse. There are certain narrations from the Companions and their Successors that put the number of worlds at forty or eighty thousand. [I need to ask about Imam ar-Raazi (RA) and his comment on ‘indefinite space’, since it seems contrary to Islamic beliefs.]
o Some may obviously say that only creatures like those we see on Earth can live, and thus there can be no extraterrestrial life. But ar-Raazi says that the organic composition and exigencies of such bodies in such worlds would be different from what we are used to. Note that Ar-Raazi thought about this possibility more than eight centuries ago, and now people are debating this matter, and whether it affects their religion or not, and even whether there are so-called ‘UFO religions’. May Allah help us.
o So we know that the Universe is extremely complex, yet has perfect order. When man sees that millions of particles and objects come together for his service, then he should not be arrogant, but he should rather give thanks to the One who made all of this possible.
o The Qur’an is very clear that the Universe as a whole is not created in vain (Verse 38:27). And when this is known, the man is also known not be left to his own devices, but rather is created to worship Allah (Verse 51:56).
o The phrase ‘The Lord of the Worlds’ is the proof for ‘Alhamdullilah’. Since Allah is the only one who nurtures the world, then only He is worthy of all praise.
o The second Verse mentions the divine quality of mercy, in Rahmaan and Raheem. It is a reminder that only due to His Mercy has Allah brought the Universe into existence. It is not burdensome on Him to nurture it, but also if it had not existed, nothing of His Majesty would have been affected.
o The third Verse pays homage to Allah as ‘the Master of the Day of Judgment’. The word ‘Maalik’ comes from the root م ل ك which means to possess something in such a manner so as to dispose of it as one likes or sees fit. So it means that on the Day of Judgment, Allah’s mastery over every thing will be total and plain for all creatures to see.
The Day of Requital is Real and Rational
o We need to ask two questions, what the Day of Requital is, and why it is specifically mentioned in this Verse. As we know, the Day of Judgment has been appointed by Allah to recompense all the deeds [the translator says that the physical world is not where the recompense for deeds will be paid to us in full, nor is collective well-being a correct goal to try to achieve related to this field. The implication is that everything is to be done for Allah and then the benefits will be seen in this world and the next.]
o Thus, this Dunya is only the field of action, of duty, not of reward. If one is healthy, wealthy, etc., it does not mean that he has earned the pleasure of Allah, and vice versa. We also see this in the worldly life, where a man who toils for long hours knows that he will receive his wages. Thus, the ‘field of work’ is not really on the same plane as the ‘field of recompense’ even in this world.
o So we see that the Prophets (AS) had the greatest degree of suffering in this world, followed by the other men of Allah, and so forth and so on. However, sometimes a person may receive some reward or punishment based on the deeds he has committed. These serve as an intimation or warning, as the Holy Qur’an says (Verses 32:21 and 68:33).
o Thus, the joys and sufferings of this world are either a trial or a punishment, but they can never be the full recompense, since the world itself is transient; so there must be a world beyond this one where the unequal nature of good and evil will be recompensed justly and properly by Allah the Exalted. The author (RA) mentions the relevant Verses (Qur’an 40: 58-59).
o There are some things that have been skipped in here, such as the question of whether the Day of Judgment is an intrinsic necessity [it is not in fact], and why deeds committed within an allotted and limited time frame are rewarded/punished eternally [several answers, the best one that I know of is that people would have continued in the state in which they died, for eternity, so Allah gived them what they deserve based on what they would have been forever.]
o There is one more matter that can be briefly mentioned, which is that the Dharmic systems understand that this world is ephemeral, but they try to reach ‘eternal bliss’ through their own efforts [meditation, yoga, etc.], while this is not possible in fact, since the underlying assumption of the homogeneity of all existents is rejected. The reason why these two aspects are related is that the efforts propagated by such religions and systems are meant to “wake up the people to recognize the fact” that all existents are of a certain inherent quality and nature – even though different Dharmic systems differ radically with each other as to what exactly is this ultimate nature they will come to experience and achieve cognizance in. This can be expanded in much more detail, but I may do that in other writings.
o We need to understand that the Day of Judgment itself is a Mercy from Allah, even for the disbelievers, since even they will be shown all they did and believed in versus the truth of the matter, and then they will be thrown into the Fire, but only after they confess that this is truly their deserved destination. So this is Allah’s Justice and Allah’s Mercy.
o Who is the Master
o We know that man’s ‘mastery’ is only relative and apparent, while that of Allah is total and real, and that it extends to every particle in the Universe, even to the dead and to those things which have never and will never come into being. Then why is it that the Day of Requital is mentioned?
o The author says that Surah al-Mu’min (Chapter #40) gives a good Qur’anic commentary on the situation on the Yawm al-Qiyaamah. So Allah indeed has mastery over everything totally, but men have been given apparent created ‘mastery’ and the rules of Sharia’ take note of this fact in their stipulations.
o However, what happens is that man many a times gets drunk with pride and vanity. This is true especially today when the underlying theory is man’s mastery over everything that exists.
o Also note that this type of ‘pride’ is not restricted to the arrogant people, those whom we would recognize as spiritually very ill and so forth. This type of pride even extends many times to the normal non-Muslim, when he thinks that, for example, he has certain human ‘rights’ granted to him by the Geneva Conventions or whoever else, and that Geneva or the United Nations are greater and wiser than Allah in declaring and deciding what is allowed or disallowed. But how can this be, when we already know that humans and their existence are not something compulsory upon Allah, so how did they gain so much courage and bravery concerning such evil thoughts? May Allah help us all in this regard.
o So the phrase ‘Master of the Day of Judgment’ is a warning to all men who are heedless, that one Day there will not even be apparent ownership and so forth, and that everyone will know lucidly that it is only Allah who is the Master and King (Qur’an 40:17).
o A personal comment: Perhaps it is this idea that has caused people throughout all ages to deny the truth of the Day of Judgment, even if it is at the end a form of atheism. They are thinking that: “At the very least let me keep full ownership of material objects, of money, and so forth, until I die. I refuse to accept that a time will come when I will not have ownership of anything. Even if I become dust, it does not matter, while I was alive, I was able to have total mastery over some things”. But we must not adopt this attitude: We were and never had full mastery over anything to begin with. It was only Allah who created all the things of this Universe in such a way so that His Revealed Sharia applied to us in a position of relative ownership in relation with certain objects, and so forth. So all people should keep this mind.
o Now, the fourth Verse has a double aspect, one of praise, and one of prayer. Man’s life is subject to past, present, and future. So the first three Verses showed that a man’s three states of time are fully under the Power and Will of Allah. So when this is inserted into the heart, it follows naturally that it is only Allah whom we should worship.
o ‘Ibadah (worship) connotes showing utmost humility and submissiveness due to intense respect and love towards Allah – and cannot be applied to any other Being. Of course, this is part of the answer to the discussion of why should one worship Allah if He may still send one to Hell (or other such arrogant questions). The truth is that we feel awe and respect, love and humility towards Allah. For those who have truly established this truth within themselves, even if Allah were to tell them to enter Hellfire after a lifetime of worship, they would still do so, since their goal is Allah’s Pleasure, not their entry into Paradise, etc.
o One interesting thing that may be mentioned is that if you were deeply in love with a person, and that person told you to put your hand inside a flaming fire, would you do it? Chances are that, in that state of mind, if you thought that this action would endear you to your beloved, you might very well do so. Or even suppose that if you had acquired the love of this woman, and she told you to continuously jump into a fire, would you do this? Again, if you thought that the perpetuation of this love depended on your jumping into this fire, and this love is all you are thinking about, then you may also throw yourself into the fire. So how is it that you are willing to burn yourself for the love of a woman (which is at the end of the day a facet of the ego and nothing else) while what Allah, your Creator, has demanded of you is much less than that in this world, and your recompense is not the fire, but rather the blessed abode of Paradise?
o Do note that the people of Paradise will be glorifying Allah all the time just as we breathe in this world, and it is these types of spiritual pleasures that are much more attractive at the ‘end of the day’ than all the material benefits the inhabitants of Paradise may attain. Also, from what is apparent, the Hellfire is not a place for praising Allah, but for being always cut off from this blessing of praise and remembrance of Allah, since the dwellers of Hellfire are too engulfed in the punishment for them to have the peace of mind required in order for them to engage in such activities.
o Of course, the Verse teaches us to worship Allah only, but as the Mufti explains, this does not exclude the possibility of certain Wasa’il [singular Waseela] to be used through mentioning the name of a Prophet, or a man of Allah, so that Allah’s Mercy may be drawn towards one’s self.
o Also, we see that ‘إيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ’ does not mention the exact purpose for which help is being sought, and thus, it is general, and may cover everything from acts of worship to worldly and other-worldly concerns.
o Ok, now, Ibaada is not restricted only to prayers and fasting. We see that Al-Ghazaali (RA) has said that worship may take ten forms: (1) Prayers (2) Zakaah (prescribed alms-giving) (3) Fasting (4) Hajj (5) Reciting the Qur’an (6) Remembrance of Allah (in Dhikr) (7) Earning of livelihood according to the Shariah (8) Fulfilling the obligations towards Companions and neighbors (9) Amr bil Ma’ruf, Nahi ‘Anil Munkar [enjoining the good and forbidding the evil] (10) To follow the Sunnah.
o Ok, so not doing ‘Shirk’ in worship means that one should not love, fear, or depend on anyone other than Allah [or in the same way that one does this for Allah.] Also, one should not: (a) have hopes (b) dedicate anything (c) consecrate or dedicate anything (d) show total debasement and self-abasement or (e) engage in particular God-oriented acts, except for Allah.
o There is one issue, when we say that love, dependence, and fear are only for Allah, it also means that we love our relatives because Allah has told us to do so. We are afraid of a raging animal coming to eat us because Allah created this natural fear inside of us, and has not told us that we have to discard this natural fear in such moments, and on and on. So this point must be kept in mind.
The Prayer for Guidance
o The last three Verses are what Allah has taught man to pray for guidance [Ayahs 6 and 7 are presented.]
The Implications of Guidance
o Some people ask that if Prophets and Messengers are already guided, why do they also pray for guidance, is this not a contradiction? Such objectors need to understand all that is implied by the term guidance.
The Meaning of Hidaayah or Guidance
o Hidaayah signifies leading someone towards his destination gently and kindly. But guidance in the real sense issues only from Allah, and it has several degrees.
First Degree of Guidance
o The first degree of guidance is general. It covers everything in the Universe, minerals, plants, animals, etc. Some may be surprised, but this is true according to Islam, since even the particles of dust and what is less than this also have their own form of life, sensitivity, consciousness, and understanding.
o But we see that those objects that show very little of this essence, that they are considered as devoid of consciousness. Then we have animals, which show signs of life, but not those of consciousness and reason, are termed as ‘living’, but not ‘rational’. But those who show to have life, consciousness, and reason, are called reasonable creatures. So only the Jinn and Mankind are held accountable to uphold the Shariah, since they have the necessary consciousness and understanding.
o But as mentioned before, other existents also have some life, sensitivity, understanding and consciousness, even though we cannot perceive it [Qur’an 17:44, Qur’an 24:41]
o It is interesting to note that many ancient philosophers, other religions, and even some scientists today endorse this view. However, many of these non-Islamic religions still went astray, as they began to think too much about the interconnections between temporal existents, and fell into disbelief due to their positions.
o Anyway, this general guidance for all existents in the Universe has been mentioned in other parts of the Qur’an, such as Verses 20:50 and 87:1-3.
o So Allah has given every particle of the Universe its role to play, its functions, and guided it so that it performs its required tasks. This is why the eyes see and not the ears, and so forth. The Ubudiyya (servant-ship) of everything in the Universe in attested to by Allah in Ayah 19:93.
o Also consider that Allah has also guided man, but due to his free choice, he may choose to reject the guidance, and this has its own consequences. But note that even here, the man’s body works perfectly even if he rejects Allah.
The Second Degree of Guidance
o This type of guidance is only for the rational creatures, that is, man and jinns. And this guidance is through the Prophets and the revealed books, and people are given the choice to accept or reject this guidance.
The Third degree of Guidance
o This third degree is even more particular, and is only for the true believers and the God-fearing. This type descends directly to the individual from Allah, and in this sense is like the first degree of guidance. Thus 3rd type makes it easy and pleasant for the person to obey Allah totally, and makes it difficult for him to oppose the injunctions of Allah.
o The author mentions that the scope of this third degree is limitless, and its levels indefinite, and this is in contradiction to the idea of man’s evolution, perfectibility, or progress that we hear about today [I need to ask exactly where and why is there a clash between the two.] Here we must make progress through virtuous deeds. All increase in virtuous deeds brings with it an increase in guidance. This is shown in the Qur’an itself in certain verses [Qur’an 47:17, 64:11 and 29:69 are presented]. It is in this field of guidance that even the Prophets and the men of Allah keep striving for until they pass on from this world.
A Cumulative view of guidance
o So we see that guidance is something that everyone possesses, but yet everyone must also seek to attain more and more of it until they die. Thus, the prayer for guidance is the most important of all prayers. Even in Surah al-Fath (Qur’an 48:20), the Prophet ﷺ was told in the context of the Conquest of Makkah that he would be guided to a straight path – so it is related to the third degree of guidance, not like some from among our opponents may say, that Allah [or whichever being they believe is the source of the Qur’an] thought that Muhammad ﷺ was inept and misguided up to that time (may Allah protect us from such thoughts).
Guidance: Some notes of Caution
o The next few points are of tremendous importance: (1) The Qur’an sometimes speaks of the common guidance for all, and sometimes of the guidance for the God-fearing only. There is no contradiction between these matters, once we know the various degrees of guidance (2) Likewise, guidance is said in the Qur’an to be for all, but also not for the unjust and unrighteous. Again, the issue resolves itself with an explanation on the degrees of guidance. (3) The first and third degrees of guidance are directly from Allah. The Prophets (AS) deal with only the second degree of guidance. Thus, when the Qur’an talks about Muhammad ﷺ not being able to guide whom he wills (or loves), this is the third degree of guidance, related to Tawfeeq.
o An important footnote: Due to the Enlightenment and Protestantism, many people nowadays think of only a ‘personal relationship’ with God, and believe that ethics and religion can be separated, or that even the dogmas of religion are altogether useless. This infection can be seen even among some self-proclaimed ‘modernist Muslims’. Yes, we accept that certain guidance is given directly by Allah to the person [what is called a ‘one-to-one relationship between God and man’], but this spiritual progress depends totally on the Shariah [the second degree of guidance]. Thus, the modern concept of ethics is not fully mapable onto Islam.
o Thus, the Qur’anic passage: ‘guide us to the straight path’ is a most comprehensive and absolutely necessary prayer for every human being.
Which path is ‘Straight’
o The straight path has no twists or turns, and avoids the extremes of excess and deficiency. The straight path is of those on whom Allah has bestowed His Grace, and in another Verse (Qur’an 4:69) it is defined to be the way of the Prophets, the Siddiqeen (the truthful ones), Shuhadaa’ (the martyrs), and the righteous.
o The Prophets have the greatest rank among these four. The Sidiqeen (constantly true) are the Men of Allah, the Saints. The Shuhadaa’ (martyrs) are those who gave their lives for the faith (or bear witness to the truth, both meanings are possible). The Saliheen are those who follow the obligatory and optional aspects of the religions of Allah. They are the pious, the virtuous, and the good.
o The next Verse identifies those who have not been granted Allah’s grace. These are the ones who have incurred Allah’s Wrath, and those who have gone astray. The first group is worse, since they know absolutely all the rules and regulations, who the men of Allah are, and all the intricacies and details, but still willfully go against Allah’s way. This was generally the case with the Jews.
o And the ones who went astray are those who due to ignorance and heedlessness, exaggerated and went beyond the limits set by Allah. This has generally been the case with Christians, who went overboard with their zeal and thought that ‘Isa (Alayhi Salaam) was actually God in the flesh.
o So we are asking for that which is free from the promptings of desires (since desires make us leave the injunctions due to stubbornness and arrogance. But desires also make us enter into wrong beliefs, and with it come doubts and confusion.)
o Thus, the essence of al-Faatihah is the prayer for guidance. The Qur’an has clearly defined the path from the positive as well as the negative points of view. Thus, we should never be mistaken about what the straight path is, for otherwise we will surely be in ruins.
The Key to the Straight Path
o We also need to understand why the Qur’an mentioned the ‘path of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace.’ Rather than the ‘path of those of the Qur’an’ or the ‘path of Muhammad ﷺ’. The truth is that the Qur’an as a book alone is not sufficient for grooming a man totally. Also, the Prophet ﷺ would not remain with us forever. But what would remain are those people on whom He has bestowed His grace, namely the Sideqeen, martyrs, and the righteous ones. [There is another issue in here, which is that whenever the Qur’an elongates something which we might think could as well have been said in fewer words, we have to look deeper into the issue – the Qur’an does not ‘waste’ even one word.]
o We learn who these men are from the Hadeeth where the Prophet ﷺ says that he and his Companions are the group that is saved from among the sects. Thus, books and oral traditions can impart good knowledge, but the true rectification of men should be done by other men. This is the case even in secular fields, which is why ‘correspondence courses’ do not have the same value as live learning.
o Again, it is mentioned that unlike what some people think, the mere reading of books will not in itself make the reader to ‘partake’ in the guidance mentioned in this Verse (or of Islam in general). Rather, what we need are live teachers who can mold and rectify people through more than rote reading and learning of pages and books.
o The conclusion
o Two things are necessary for the success of man: The Book of Allah, and the men of Allah. The Qur’an does contain guidance, no doubt, but the Men of Allah make this guidance effective. But we should also assess anyone who claims to be the ‘Man of Allah’ against His Book, and only if they really match should we go ahead and learn from this man.
o Some people (Shias) will look at the above and say that: ‘Look, here the Sunnis are accepting that the Book is infallible and contains guidance. But they cannot see that the guidance is only with the “14 Infallibles” and no one else!’
o We say to this that the Verse 4:69 quoted above, which speaks positively concerning those who have been granted Allah’s Grace, does not mention anything about infallibility when telling us whom we are to follow. Just to come and say that “Infallibles” are the only ones authorized to lead the Ummah is a leap too far into the realm of imagination and guesswork. The truth is that (Allah knows best, and I will need to check this], that this Verse (4:69) is general, especially against the sense that the Shias are trying to portray. Placing these three groups of people: the very truthful, the martyrs, and the righteous is not meant to exclude everyone outside the “12 Infallibles”, but is rather meant to provide guidelines for the Muslim Ummah to follow in seeking live teachers and guides. (Besides, if the intent was to tell the Muslims to “follow the Infallibles in everything”, which was it not just said so?) [There is much more that may be said about this matter, but I will leave it at this for the time being].
Why the Schism
o There have been schisms in Islam, and the reason is the adoption of extremes: Some people took hold of the Qur’an and forgot the men of Allah, while others took the men of Allah but forgot the Qur’an – and both of these are fatal errors in belief.
Injunctions and related Considerations
o So Surah al-Faatiha first praises Allah, then an ‘oath of allegiance’ is presented from man to His Lord, and finally the prayer for guidance [which covers all possible human needs and goals] is requested. In addition, there are some secondary matters, which are:
o The proper way of praying to Allah: So the Chapter teaches man how to pray and how to make a request to Allah. First, the obligation to praise Allah must be fulfilled, then we should offer our complete allegiance to Allah, to show that we only worship Allah in truth. Then one should pray for what one requires. And we should have the best Thann (thought) of Allah, that He will indeed answer our prayers. The suggestion is also that, when making a request, it should be a comprehensive request that covers all of our goals and needs. In this Chapter, we see that the request for guidance is this type of comprehensive request, because if the straight path is followed, then one’s material and spiritual spheres of action will be set aright.
o There are other supplications of the same type in the Qur’an and in the Sunnah. We need to remember that many a times, what we think is good for us is in fact detrimental, so asking for comprehensive good in this world and the next is many a times better than asking for a specific thing, restricting ourselves to that and being adamant on that particular thing only – since we do not know for sure where the goodness lies. Yes, in many cases only that thing is good for us, but in other cases the true goodness may lie elsewhere.
Praising Allah is man’s natural demand
o First we have the praise to Allah in this Chapter, even though there is neither favor nor quality mentioned in the first Verse. The truth is that Allah’s blessings are limitless, as the Qur’an itself says. If man only considers himself, he would see that his body offers a parallel to the macrocosm of the Earth: his hair to the vegetation of the Earth, his bones to the hills, his veins to the springs flowing under the Earth. We see that this traditional cosmology has been discarded by the post-Copernican view of things, to the point that man in the modern world is highly alienated from his surroundings.
o Man is composed of spirit and body, the spirit being superior and the body being subservient to it. Yet, even in the lower realm we see many wonders of biology, anatomy, etc. One example is that the hundreds of joints in a man’s body are in perpetual motion, yet they generally do not need major repairs. (Compare this with your computer, which needs repair even few months, needs its major components to be changed every few years, and becomes a piece of metal scrap after a few years).
o Or if we see the complexity of the eye, we notice that we may never be able to know about it fully even after a lifetime of study. Even if we only consider a single movement of the eye and how it sees, we notice that it requires so many external and internal factors in order for it to see just one image. Likewise, the functions of the other bodily organs require, so as to say, the forces of the entire Universe to come together in order for the act to be properly performed – and yet this is repeated again and again for decades on end without any big disturbance until the person passes away.
o The greatest blessing of Allah are in fact available to both the king and the beggar alike, and the benefits of such things are offered to all without distinction, and as such they are common to all. Then, there are special blessings which Allah gives unequally to people, and these include honor, health, peace, knowledge, and so forth. The general blessings are in fact more important for survival which is why they are common for all, yet man takes the first cluster of blessings for granted and complains bitterly about inequality in the second category. Not only this, but some people think that because Allah has not given them rank as high as their neighbor (for example), they will stop doing acts or worship, as if Allah and the people are of the same nature! Strange ideas of disbelief that come to the minds of certain people. If they had a proper mindset concerning such matters, they would come to know that no matter what blessings a person is given, or even if they are all taken away from him, all praise still belongs to Allah, since the One who has full authority also deserves full praise.
o It is only human nature that we seek to praise and give thanks to the One who has given us the innumerable blessings we have. Thus, the praise of Allah is given an extremely high rank among acts of worship. So much so, that if one says ‘Alhamdullilah’ after receiving something from Allah, it is like giving something better in return. Also, it is said that ‘Alhamdullilah’ fills half the scale of good deeds in the Balance. Obviously, being able to say ‘Alhamdullilah’ is a great blessing from Allah Himself, which is perhaps why it is said that this phrase is better than the blessing the servant may have originally received (and Allah knows best).
o As to what praising of Allah should actually entail, one of the ‘Aalims said that one should recognize that the blessing received is indeed from Allah, be content with whatever he has received, and never disobey Allah for as long as he has strength left in his body – which is another gift from Allah. So recognizing that all things we have in our bodies are gifts and blessings from Allah helps us to recognize and praise Allah, and keeps humble and away from arrogance.
o The second element is ‘Lillah’, composed of the preposition ‘Laam’ and the noun ‘Allah’. This indicates particularization, and shows that no one else from among the existents is worthy of ultimate praise except Allah. However, Allah does command us to thank those through whom we receive the gifts of Allah, so as not to adopt an arrogant attitude.
o Self-Praise is not permitted: It is forbidden for man to praise himself (Qur’an 53:32). This is because a man can only be praised if he is God-fearing, but only Allah knows to what degree any given person is praiseworthy and has Taqwa. Of course, Allah has informed us of the high Taqwa of Prophets and certain other specific men of Allah, and their case is definite, but in today’s world, we can only hope and pray that Allah accepts us and our deeds.
o The question may come up, that then why does Allah praise Himself? The truth is that man cannot praise Allah properly, so he has to be taught how to do it. Even the Prophet ﷺ made the supplication that Allah is as He has praised Himself, that he ﷺ cannot give the proper praise from his own account. If that is the case with the Prophet ﷺ, then what about the normal people, many of whom do not have a proper idea of Allah and His Exalted Self?
o Someone might say that the original objection has not been answered. They may say that: “Is Allah God-Fearing that He should praise Himself? If not, then why does He praise Himself?” I really do not like these sorts of questions since they show a lack of understanding concerning the issue, and many a times an intentional attempt to conflate and distort matters, but if any sincere person really has this doubt, then I can say the following: The questioner is making an ontological mistake between the nature of mankind and the nature of Allah. We say that man is praiseworthy because he abases himself towards Allah, and his elevation is in worshipping Allah – so it is a sort of ‘derived praise’, derived from his actions towards Allah. But Allah has no needs, He is the Being who creates everything from non-existence, and He has all the attributes of perfection. Thus, all praise is truly for Allah alone – the creation that is praiseworthy is only so because they have been blessed with the ability to praise and worship Allah properly and Allah elevates their rank with respect to others from among His Creation as He wills.
Rabb is the exclusive attribute of Allah
o In Arabic, ‘Rabb’ is used for the person who possesses a thing, and is also fully capable and responsible of nurturing it properly. So it is obvious that only Allah is the ‘Rabb’ of the Universe, and the word cannot be used in an absolute sense with any Being other than Allah. A Prophetic narration explicitly prohibits this with respect to master-slave relations. But it is permissible to relativize it, such as saying ‘Rabb ad-Daar’ [master of the house], and so forth.
o What we understand from the above is also that the use of attributes such as life, power, knowledge, etc., are only relational with respect to us the creatures, but take on their true meaning only when applied to Allah the Exalted. So this point has to be kept in mind.
o Seeking help from Allah: Ibn ‘Abbaas (RAA) says that the Verse ‘Iyyaaka Na’budu Wa Iyyaa Nasta’in” means that we turn only to Allah for worship and help in all cases.
o A number of great scholars and saints have said that the Faatiha is the gist of the Qur’an, and that this Verse is the gist of the Faatihah. This is because first we declare that there is no other Being that we worship, and we also declare the ultimate inefficacy of our power and will – we accept that Allah is the Creator of all this, and that we are in fact nothing at all without His Act of Creation and Re-Creation. Thus, the Muslim who understands this, does not rely on the faculties of any creature, but he entrusts himself completely to Allah (as mentioned in the Qur’an, Verses 11:123, 67:29, and 73:9).
o Now, two points of doctrine: (1) Associating any being with Allah is ‘Shirk’, an unforgiveable sin. Since ‘Ibaadah’ involves total self-abasement towards Allah, any veneration, total obedience, etc., to any being other than Allah is also association with Allah (the Qur’an provides the example of Jews and Christians in Verse 9:31). It goes without saying that attributing divine attributes in the literal sense to any Being other than Allah is also ‘Shirk’.
o As we may know, the Companions ‘Adi bin Haatim, while still a Christian, asked the Prophet ﷺ why the Qur’an was blaming the Christians for having taken the scholars as lords over them even though they never worshipped them. The Prophet ﷺ made it clear that through their declaring forbidden things as permissible and vice versa, and the people accepting such judgments even though the truth of the matter was known by them to be otherwise, had in fact taken them as lords. So from this we know that if anyone gives absolute right of legislation to a Being other than Allah, then he is guilty of association.
o This is why those who say that legislation is ultimately the sole right of the people themselves have committed a type of ‘Shirk’. Thus, it is a type of ‘practical atheism’, even if the people who say this contend that they believe in a separation between the affairs of the state and those ‘of the mosque’. This is since the Sharia and Fiqh is already in a position to establish certain new rules as per the needs of man in a certain situation. But to say that man is the absolute final judge in all matters of the emanation of legislation is where we vehemently disagree with our opponents.
o However, we need to guard against a misunderstanding that may ensue: this Verse does not apply to the generality of Muslims, who do Taqleed (following) of the scholars in order to follow the precepts of the Sharia. This is so, since there are many sciences necessary in order to deduce rulings. Besides, Taqleed was something done even by most of the Companions, who asked about different rulings from the senior Companions and followed their Fataawa (rulings). Note that this is different from the case of the Christians referred to in Verse 9:31, since in that case ‘Adi (as a Christian) acknowledged that this was a case of blind following of the scholars even though the people were sure that the truth was something else. But in the case of the generality of the Muslims, this is not applicable, since the great majority of the intricate practicalities of the religion are a matter of probabilistic evidence, which does not come under the dichotomy of Imaan versus Kufr [belief versus disbelief].
o Of course, there are some people who may say that: ‘Look, the saying of your scholars goes against such-and-such Saheeh Hadeeth. You are also a Mushrik if you discard the saying of the Prophet ﷺ in favor of the saying of some scholar’. I know most people do not go so far in the deprecation of Taqleed, but we still have to keep some things in mind: When someone says ‘Saheeh Hadeeth’, it does not necessarily mean that rejecting its apparent literal meaning vis-à-vis what I as a Muslim should do in my worship constitutes ‘Shirk’ (associating partners with Allah). This is because a Hadeeth, even a Saheeh one, is still on most accounts a strong ‘Thanni’ [probabilistic] piece of evidence in the conglomeration of texts (and their respective meanings and circumstances, etc.) that are to be considered before a judgment is given concerning the matter at hand. Yes, if the text is definitive in both the content itself and in the meaning ascribed to it, then there is no way to reject it as a Muslim [for example, the command ‘establish prayer’ or the prohibition ‘keep away from adultery’]. But when we get down to the intricate details, differences will always arise, and this is something that even the Hadeeth-only promoters cannot deny at all.
o One more thing is that the definitions for a Saheeh Hadeeth were formulated by scholars themselves. We see that even among the biggest Imam, like Bukhaari and Muslim, there were some marked differences in their methodologies. Yet, no one makes profuse vituperation of either of these two Imaams, and if other Muhaditheen had differences of opinion with these Shaykhayn of the Hadeeth, they only presented this in an academic way.
o More importantly, if someone were to totally follow the ‘Allah and Prophet only rule’ as improperly applied by some, they could ask that: “Why are you following the Hadeeth criteria as set by fallible humans like Bukhaari and Muslim? Follow only the Qur’an, which is the only thing you are sure of, do not follow normal men!”
o The sagacious person will see that this is a very dangerous path to follow, since it leads to the desertion of the Sharia and of Islam itself by those who advocate such “rules”. Besides, who said that the meaning of the words in the Qur’an can be understood even superficially in many cases except with the help of scholars (the so-called “normal men” of this nation)? So are we to only have a recited book with “no meanings” behind it in many cases? Not only this, but we also see that the way of reciting the Qur’an is passed on only by the scholars, and that the text everyone reads is basically a “textualization” of this recitation – without the art of the recitation of the Qur’an, there is no text of the Qur’an.
o As we can see, this thinking also allows all forms of the enemies of Islam to call for the weak Muslims to apostatize, since lots of confusion will be caused when the understanding of the Muslims is reduced to such a non-scholarly level. We pray to Allah to help us and guide us all.
o Now, another thing under the heading of ‘association’ is when ‘votive offerings’ (acts of worship) are made to beings other than Allah. This includes not only praying to someone for them to directly remove your stress and so forth, but also pertains to signs generally considered to be ‘associative’ in nature. This is the reason why wearing the Christian cross is forbidden in Islam, regardless of the intention, since the meaning behind the cross is that “God became incarnate in a man and died for our sins”, something which Islam totally rejects. It is also disallowed to do the ritual Ruku’, Sajda, or Tawwaf (circumambulation) to anyone or anything that has not been allowed to by Allah (There are some jurisprudential issues in here, and certain distinctions – like the difference between the Sajda or worship and the Sajda of respect- that the author (RA) did not mention here, but they will be treated in due time).
Seeking Allah’s Help Directly or Indirectly
o We also need to clarify what is meant when we say that one should turn to Allah alone in times of seeking help.
o We have the kind of help in the physical universe which man seeks from other men; specialists are asked by the common men to carry out tasks for them, for example. This is not forbidden, since this is the network of physical means provided to men by Allah. As far as non-physical means are concerned, it is permissible to seek Tawwassul (a means of closeness, etc.) through the Prophets and saints – this is explicitly and implicitly mentions in the Islamic texts, and it is wrong to say that it is forbidden or to call it a type of ‘Shirk’.
o So the ‘Shirk’ or ‘association’ may arise in two ways: Either by believing that some creature is omnipotent like Allah, or believing that Allah has delegated some of His Power to certain angels, Prophets, etc., and that they have ‘independent jurisdiction’ in their specific ‘areas’.
o The misunderstanding may arise because the angels have been given huge tasks to perform in this very physical Universe even. Also, Prophets (AS) have shown people many Mu’jizaat (Prophetic miracles), and the saints have shown many wonders at their hands. The careless one thinks that Allah must have a partitioned ‘Power’ that can be partially given to angels and Prophets. [In fact, the Christians do something like this when they say that “Godhead” is a genus and that it is occupied by three “persons”, and that for example, Jesus Christ (AS) must have been God since he could give sight to those who were born blind even though this has never been seen before.]
o But this is a faulty idea. The truth is that miracles and wonders are direct acts of Allah manifested at the hands of Prophets and saints in order for people to recognize their true position, but it is always Allah that brings such an event into existence. For example, the Qur’an mentions the time when the Prophet ﷺ threw some pebbles at the army of idolaters, and these smote the eyes of the entire army. Allah, in Verse 8:31, attributes this act to Himself. Likewise, we see the same general case with Nuh (AS) [Verse 11:33], and a group of earlier Prophets [Verse 14:11]. Thus, we also need to understand that even Prophets do not bring whatever miracle they want whenever they want it to occur, but rather Allah manifests whatever miracles He pleases, and not necessarily what the disbelievers may request.
o One (quite imperfect) analogy is provided. We see that in our houses, we receive light from lamps and air from a fan, but neither the lamp nor the fan possess absolute “power” to give one light and air, but rather, they receive their electric current from the powerhouse, without which they will not operate. We thus see that Allah is the one who makes the miracles and wonders happen, but at the hands of a messenger or saint.
o It is obviously not a “perfect analogy”, since the electric current and the powerhouse also do not possess any true power of their own anyway and this is also under Allah’s authority, but it was mentioned only so that simple-minded people may understand and not fall into utter confusion.
o We also need to comprehend that, since Allah has chosen to guide humanity through certain people (termed Prophets and Messengers), then the miracles necessarily have to be shown at their hands, since only through these types of matters is the proof of Allah definitively established upon the people with respect to these men of Allah. After all, it is not the Sunnah of Allah to guide each person directly in his heart [that is, direct inspiration from Allah concerning every detail of what should be done], but rather, Allah sent Prophets and Messengers [that is, select people] and established the proofs through them – the proofs being the miracles (Mu’jizaat) which made obedience to them obligatory.
o The author (RA) mentions this fact, in that Allah could have shown miracles and wonders even in the absence of prophets and saints. However, this would not serve the purpose they were intended to have, which is to establish the proof on the masses. For example, we can imagine a hypothetical situation where the dead would have come back to life even if ‘Isa (Alayhi Salaam) had not come to his people. But given the fact that a Mu’jiza is defined as the incapacitation of the opponents of the Prophets and Messengers in face of the amazing thing such Prophets and Messengers bring, it is only logical that the Mu’jiza can only appear at their hands, for otherwise it is still a wonder, but it is not connected with any man of Allah, and thus does not in and of itself point towards the path to guidance.
o So again, we have to remain in the middle road, free from extremes: We must have firm faith that nothing happens except by the Power and Will of Allah, but also that the Prophets and Messengers [and their successors in teaching us, the other men of Allah] are necessary for us to attain proper guidance. Otherwise, we are like the person who says that the electric current comes from the power plant, and says that thus he has no need for lamps and fans in order to get light and air [again, the imperfect analogy is brought forth, but some people may only understand things like this.]
o Thus, taking Prophets and saints as a Waseela in order to draw divine mercy upon one’s self is permissible, with the condition that they are not considered as having independent power to carry out requests. Thus, we should reject both extremes, either of outright rejection of Waseela or outright veneration.
o I will just give a further small example that is technically correct and important to keep in mind: I suppose most of us go to the doctor when we feel sick, and we take the prescription and treatments of the doctor with the intention of getting well. But this is obviously only due to the fact that this is a world of means, nothing else. What is important is that if any person believes that the medicine actually cures him in the sense of the medicine having actual efficacy to bring about its effect (getting well), then that person has left the fold of Islam. This, even though there was absolutely no supplication to the doctor or the medicine, nor vocative “lighting of candles” or any other religious ritual associated with the medicine, the doctor, etc. So this is a very important thing to keep in mind, that even mundane ways of getting help in this world should under no circumstances be confused with true efficacy for material objects.
6. Success in this world and the Hereafter
o Again, the author (RA), emphasizes that success in worldly and other-worldly affairs depends on taking the straight path, on using the means and methods which habitually lead to the attainment of one’s goals. In the case of the material world, it is the adoption of the well-known means of productivity, etc., and in the case of the Hereafter, it is through prayers, fasting, charity, etc… and both of these are encompassed by the pure Sharia (Here ends the commentary on the Surah al-Faatiha).
Surah al-Baqarah (the Cow) Madinite – 286 Verses
o The name and number of Verses: There are strong narrations mentioning that the name of this Chapter is al-Baqarah, and those reports prohibiting this name are unsound.
o The period of revelation: The Surah is Madinite; some Verses were revealed during the Farewell Pilgrimage in Makkah, but as mentioned before, these are also considered to be Madinite Verses.
o As we know, this is the longest Surah in the Qur’an, the first Surah to be revealed in Madinah (or that its revelation began in Madinah), but it took quite a long time for it to be completely revealed, the Verses dealing with usury being revealed after the Conquest of Makkah, and Verse 2:281 [translation as: Fear the day when you will return to Allah] was revealed as the final part of the Qur’an, on the 10th of Dhul-Hijja during the Farewell Hajj.
The merits of Surah al-Baqarah
o As mentioned in a Hadeeth, we are encouraged to read Surah al-Baqarah, since it brings down Barakah (blessings), neglecting it is misfortune, and “men of falsehood” cannot overcome it – referring to sorcerers and practitioners of black magic. The Prophet ﷺ also said that the Satan flees from the house where this Surah is recited. It is also said to be the apex of the Qur’an, and that each Verse was accompanied by eighty angels when it was revealed. Ayah al-Kursi (255) was mentioned as having superiority over all other Verses of the Qur’an. It was also said by Ibn Mas’ud (RAA) that ten Verses [the first 4, the middle 3 (Ayah al-Kursi and 2 Verses after it) and the last 3 Verses] have such an efficacy that one would not be afflicted with Satan, or jinns in one’s house, nor would illness, calamity or sorrow strike one for the night when it is recited, and that a person suffering from a fit of madness would improve thanks to the recitation of these ten Verses.
o We also have from Ibn al-‘Arabi (RA) the report from his Shuyuukh that this Verse has one thousand injunctions, prohibitions, subtle points of wisdom, parables, and references to historical events. This is why ‘Umar (RAA) spent 12 years in learning and meditating over this Surah, and ‘Ibn ‘Umar (RAA) spent eight years learning it.
o As we know, al-Faatihah is the gist of the Qur’an and contains the affirmation of Tawhid, the affirmation of ‘Ubudiyya for Allah alone, and the prayer for guidance. Thus, al-Faatihah ends with the prayer for guidance, and the whole Qur’an is the answer to this request.
o And Surah al-Baqarah starts with “That is the Book…” Then, the basic principles of Islamic faith are mentioned [Tawhid, Risalah, Akhira]. These have been presented at the end of this Chapter as well, and in between, the basic and secondary principles are provided in detail, which provide guidance to man in all spheres of his life.
o Explanation of Ayahs 1-5: The first Ayah of this Surah are the Arabic letters Alif, Laam, and Meem. A similar combination of letters is found in different Surahs (in their beginnings) and these are known as the Muqata’aat [isolated letters, since they are pronounced separately without the addition of a vowel sound after it].
o Some commentators have said that the Muqata’aat are the names of the Surahs at the beginning of which they occur, or that they are the symbols of the Divine Names. However, the majority of the Companions and Muslim scholarship at large, have said that the meaning of these are known only to Allah, or at most were entrusted as a special secret to the Prophet ﷺ that he was not to communicate to others, which is why there is no Prophetic commentary found in the Hadith literature concerning these letters.
o Al-Qurtubi (RA) mentions from several of the scholars that every revealed book contains secret signs and mysteries of Allah, and the Muqata’aat are the mysteries of Allah in the Qur’an, and we cannot enter any discussion with regard to them. But they have great benefit to us, since we must believe in them and recite them, and we receive blessings even if we do not have awareness of these blessings descending upon us. The biggest Companions said we are not to ask questions about them. But we also know that certain scholars have indeed given certain interpretations about these letters. But this was only to give symbolic Tafseer, or to make the reader’s mind awaken with respect to the indefinite possibilities of meanings that lie hidden in the Qur’an without particularizing it only to their views. Thus, we should not critique their efforts since we do not rashly go against the judgment of the scholars of this nation, even if our teachers have taught us something else.
o Next, we consider the phrase “That Book has no doubt in it”. The Arabic word used is “Dhaalika” (that), referring to a far-off thing, while Kitaab (Book) refers to the Qur’an itself, so there would seem to be a problem in the terminology used. However, the truth is that the pronoun refers back to the prayer for guidance and the straight path in Surah al-Faatihah, and the implication is that the Qur’an is the answer to the request for guidance.
o Thus, the Qur’an makes a claim about itself, that it contains no doubt. If we consider in an abstract manner how doubt may arise, it is either due to the statement itself being erroneous, or the listener may make a mistake in his understanding. Note that in this second case the statement is not doubtful in itself, but it is due to a defective understanding of the listener that he deems it to be doubtful. This is why later in this Chapter (in Verse 23) the emphasis is on this second possibility, where mankind is challenged that if they have any doubts, then they should try to come up with something similar to the Qur’an. If that is not possible, the miracle of the Qur’an and its coming from Allah is shown from the Qur’an’s internal statements as well as the confirmation that others cannot bring forth something like it.
o It is important to note that “modern science” is not necessarily a valid criteria in establishing the absolute truth of the Qur’an, both due to its position on its own axioms (which may change drastically at any time), and also due to its fundamental supposition that only material causes effectively give rise to their material effects (which is a negation of Allah’s total Qudra [Power] over the Creation). We know this has been said before, but it is absolutely necessary that Muslims know this fact, so as not to get confused.
o Next is the phrase “a guidance for the God-fearing”. The term Muttaqeen is derived from Taqwa which means to fear Allah and to refrain from transgression against His Commandments.
o There is one important topic here, as some may ask as to why is the guidance said to be for the God-fearing, while those who are not God-fearing need it much more. The answer is: The Holy Qur’an provides guidance to all created existents, but the guidance that is required for salvation is for the God-fearing alone. If we recall the discussion from Surah al-Faatiha, there are three levels of guidance, and the last two are (a) particular to rational creatures (men and jinns) and (b) those who are very close to Allah. This Verse refers to these last two categories. With regards to those who are already God-fearing, then they will (by Allah’s Mercy) reach further and further guidance through the Holy Qur’an. With respect to the generality of men and jinns, those who accept the Qur’an as their guidance will be elevated to the rank of the God-fearing, and from there they may attain further Divine favors.
o The next two Verses show the characteristics of the Muttaqeen, showing that these are the ones who have received guidance, whose path is the straight path, and that one who wishes to be on the straight path should join them, believe and behave like them. It is perhaps due to this that in Verse 5 Allah says: (translation) “It is these who are on guidance given by their Lord, and it is just these who are successful”. The Verses (3 and 4) also contain in essence a definition of Imaan and an account of its basic tenets and of the principles of righteous conduct, as Allah says: “Who believe in the Unseen, and are steadfast in Salah (prayer), and spend out of what we have provided them. Three qualities of the God-fearing are mentioned above. We see the most important consideration arising out of this Verse being the meaning and definition of Imaan (faith).
Who are the God-Fearing
o The Definition of Imaan: The question comes up regarding what exactly Imaan is. It is defined in the beginning of this Surah as ‘believing in the Unseen’.
o If we consider this matter linguistically, we see that Imaan means to accept with complete certitude the statement made by someone due to our confidence in him, even though we have no direct sensible data in front of us. If there is such sensible data, it is Tasdeeq [confirmation of facts, or of visible facts in this case], not Imaan. In Shariah, it is connected to the statements made by a Prophet due to our confidence in him even though we do not have direct sensory confirmation of the same.
o The footnote says that unfortunately “faith” has come to mean only an intense emotional state, rather than the essentially intellectual character it has in Islam. I need to add that this is one of the reasons why people tend to ‘rebel’ against the established religions in the West: One feels that he can redefine any religion based on the spiritual ecstasies his personal religious views confer on him, even if it goes against all thoroughly proven views in that religion. (Another big part is of course, that the non-Islamic religions have big epistemological problems of their own, but we are not discussing this angle in here).
o This is one issue. Another matter is that ‘faith’ is generally treated as something held without any proof whatsoever. In Islam there is definitely trust in the Ghayb as brought forth by the Prophets (Alayhima Salaam), but it is not a trust without a basis: We know of the reality of miracles, and we seek to find out the miraculous nature of whatever it is that the Prophet in question has brought forth. Then after that, our only job is to obey and follow the Prophets. (It has to be made clear that this exposition is in very general terms. Right now we are only to look at what Muhammad ﷺ brought forth, and apply ourselves to everything he ﷺ said. Even the existence of the Previous Prophets and their stories are known from him ﷺ, since, among other things, there has been a huge amount of loss and tampering of information concerning previous Prophets of Allah from their root sources, and it is practically impossible to determine anything with certainty apart from what the Qur’an and the authentic Islamic texts convey to us.
o Moving on to the word Ghayb, it means whatever cannot be known to man directly through the five senses or through reason, but rather what has to be relied on from the Prophet ﷺ to know about it, such as matters of destiny, Heaven and Hellfire, the Day of Resurrection, the stories of the previous Prophets, etc. What is mentioned in the first 3 Verses of this Chapter is mentioned in detail in the last couple of Verses.
o One thing I need to say: The Tafseer mentions the Essence and Attributes of Allah among the matters of the Ghayb. We need to remember also, that many scholars have mentioned that recognizing the existence of Allah is something incumbent on the mind of every human even if no message reaches that person. Thus, it is true that we would not know, for example, concerning the Attribute of the Speech of Allah without revelation, or that we should accept the attributes of Hearing and Seeing for Allah which are mentioned in the Qur’an separately from His Knowledge, and this is only known by the revelation, but in terms of His Existence and the fact that He is beyond limitations and constraints, there is absolutely no excuse for any human being.
o One more point is made: We obviously have faith in everything the Prophet ﷺ has said, but only if it is proven through authentic and undeniable sources – and this is how the scholars have defined Imaan. As a small side comment there is again a difference between something with an authentic chain and something as “undeniable evidence”. This difference and the ramifications thereof are the purview of Usool studies, so we hope the readers do not get confused about this matter.
o Thus, Imaan signifies faith and certitude, not only knowledge. For a mental knowledge of the truth is possessed by many disbelievers, even by Satan himself, but they have rejected the truth with their hearts, and this is what makes them disbelievers all the same. (We also note the difference between mental and heart-based knowledge and that Islam combines the necessity of both the intellectual cognizance plus its acceptance in the heart.)
The Meaning of Establishing Salah
o The second quality of true believers is that they are steadfast in the prayer. The Arabic word here is ‘Yuqeemuuna’, which means to establish, connected to Iqaamah (straightening out). Thus, the God-fearing do not only say one’s prayers and finish them off, but they try to follow all the inwardly (concentration and spiritual cleanliness, etc.) and outwardly conditions (whether these conditions are Fardh (obligatory), Waajib (necessary), or Mustahhab (commendable)) for all their prayers [Fard, Waajib, or Nafl prayers]. The author makes the distinction between ‘Fardh’ and ‘Waajib’ as per the Hanafi jurisprudents, but the meaning would be basically the same according to other jurisprudents [that is, one should perfect one’s prayers, not only worry about their ritual acceptability].
Spending in the Way of Allah: Categories
o The third quality of the Muttaquun is their spending in the way of Allah. This includes all forms of spending, whether Fardh Zakaah, Waajib alms-giving or supererogatory acts of charity. The Qur’an usually employs the term Infaaq for voluntary alms-giving, but uses Zakaah for the obligatory alms-giving. The term ‘ممَّا رزقناهم’ [of what We have provided them] draws attention to the fact that even if we spend all that we have, it is no favor to Allah since He is the One who gives us everything in the first place. But Allah is Merciful, so He only orders us to spend a part of what He has given us. (I will need to ask concerning what ‘Waajib alms-giving’ refers to, since I am confused about this).
o We know that faith is the most important thing for the God-fearing. This Verse mentions only two good deeds though [prayer and spending in the way of Allah]. So why only these two, while a huge list of good deeds could be drawn up? The answer is that all good deeds pertain either to the body of man or to his possessions. Salah is the highest of the bodily good deeds, while spending in the way of Allah encompasses everything regarding possessions. Thus, these few Verses define Imaan and indicate the meaning of Islam as well.
The distinction between Imaan and Islam
o Knowing the above, we need to understand the difference between Imaan and Islam. In the language, Imaan means acceptance and confirmation of something with one’s heart, and Islam signifies submission and obedience. Iman pertains to the heart, and Islam pertains to all other body parts as well as the heart. Now, the Sharia says that Iman is not valid without Islam, nor Islam without Iman. Thus, it is not enough to have faith in one’s heart – one must express this with the tongue and affirm one’s allegiance to Islam. Also, an oral declaration of Islam is not valid with Allah unless there is real faith in the heart. It is only due to the lexical distinction that the Qur’an and Ahadeeth make a difference between the two (this lexically as well, not as technical definitions), but in the Shariah, Imaan and Islam are completely interwoven with each other.
o The Qur’an, when mentioning the Shar’i view, says that Islam (declaration by the tongue) when not accompanied by Imaan is hypocrisy (Nifaaq), and the hypocrites are in the deepest part of Hellfire.
o But let us also make clear that in this world, we can only deal with people as they appear in front of us. So if someone is indeed a Munaafiq but shows no outward signs of hypocrisy, we are to treat him the same as other Muslims, since that is what he is to our eyes – and his punishment will be with Allah in the Hereafter.
o But we cannot be suspicious of everyone, that they might be hypocrites, since Islam forbids baseless suspicions. Yes, if the hypocrite says or does something that shows his inward state of disbelief, then we may act on that, but other than such obvious signs, we are not to hold doubts and suspicions about any Muslim without very strong evidence. If someone declares that ‘so-and-so is a Munaafiq’ he is basically making a statement concerning that person’s internal state of the heart, and calling him an underground Kaafir, and as we know, declaring Takfeer on people is a very serious matter and is not to be taken lightly.
o Now, a question that I encountered personally: A Christian once asked that don’t the rules and rituals of Islam breed hypocrisy, since many people would do these prayers, fastings, etc., without really believing in the Islamic faith in their hearts, and while “lying low” all the while?
o To this, my personal answer is: Hypocrisy is such that when the hypocrite gets a chance to join the opponents and enemies of Islam, he will jump ship. And believe me, there are a plethora of enemies of Islam entering into the Muslim lands through different means to such a degree that their ideas are being disseminated as the norm within the Muslim milieu. Given that this is the situation, there is no need for ‘hidden disbelievers’ pretending to be good practicing Muslims, since such disbelievers are not be afraid of any consequences for the Kufr they say and do. Thus, far from doing all the actions of Islam while in reality being disbelievers, what we see is that such people act totally contrary to Islam and in fact boldly mock the Islamic religion and/or its established rules. Yes, there may be some examples of people praying assiduously while being something else outside of the mosques, but these are in fact exceptions, and if anything the exceptions prove the general correctness of the rule. Besides, even these exceptions will ultimately say something or do something that shows their true nature of their hearts – like for example mocking the beard or the Hijaab, making fun of a serious Islamic topic, etc.
o Thus, Kufr, especially in these days, is not easy to keep inside for long, given the many avenues that the Kuffaar have in order to display their real intentions and the lack of consequences they observe for the disbelief they may utter.
o Thus, what we see is that the one who engages in recitation of the Qur’an, in fasting, alms-giving, prayer, and so on, will have the spiritual imprint upon his heart, and will not be swayed by the temptations of Shaytaan. If someone asks why, we say this is the general “Sunnah of Allah” with His Creation, such that whichever persons stays in the company of a people and starts to do their deeds eventually takes on their characteristics into his own body and heart, and these are characteristics that are adopted in truth, not simply for the purpose of showing off to people or to escape punishment, etc.
o It is seen then, that those who move way from Islam into apostasy (may Allah save us all from this) are those who: 1. Did not perform the deeds of Islam properly or did not care about them or 2. They did the rituals of Islam, but did not seek out knowledge from its proper sources, as knowledge is not to be simply taken from wherever, but has its people and its method.
o One issue we observe nowadays a lot and which must be addressed is that of normal Muslims with only minimal formal knowledge of Islam debating non-Muslims based on Jahl (ignorance). I cannot imagine of anything worse for a person’s Imaan than arguing with non-Muslims without having formal Islamic knowledge, while this “Muslim debater” should instead have been performing Ibaadah (worship), learning the Deen, and only little by little starting to encounter the views of other ideologies, etc., once his knowledge is much more firm.
o We also need to notice that generally, the scholars of Islam themselves go into the longer proofs in Fiqh and Aqeedah only after completing many years of difficult study, after having gone through dozens of books (maybe 50 books, maybe even more). So what are these lay Muslims, sometimes normal teenage boys and girls doing thinking that they are defending Islam, while they may not even know the names of the traditional scholars of Islam, let alone opened their texts? Of course, Islam should be upheld and defended against attacks, but in the proper way. Laymen too can have an impact in this field, but again, it is through the proper way and the proper methodology.
o Coming back, the author says that Imaan without external acknowledgment is also Kufr, with the examples of Verses 2:146 and 27:14. I am presuming that what is meant is being certain of the truth as an intellectual reality, but failing to carry out the requirement of Shahadah and so on, due to hard-heartedness, stubbornness, etc.
o Allamah Anwar Shah (RA) said that the journeys to be travelled by Imaan and Islam are in fact the same, but only the routes differ. Imaan starts from the heart and is perfected in external deeds, while Islam starts with the deeds and is perfected when it reaches the heart. The same general concept of intertwinement has been reported by Imams al-Ghazaali, As-Subki, Ibn al-Humam (Rahimahumulla)… basically all authentic scholars of Islam.
o An important footnote is presented by the editor: Many modernists today do not understand this distinct, yet close relationship, between Imaan and Islam, and thus have adopted extremist positions. On the one hand, many of them think that Islam is only a matter of “personal faith in the heart” and nothing else. They relegate the rules of the Sharia to individual taste, liberal democracy, and social exigency. It is mentioned that this is nothing but a heavy dose of Martin Luther’s Protestant spirit along with Rosseau’s political theories (nothing to do with Islam at all). But then we have those who concentrate only on the performance of rituals with absolutely no space for the internal dimension of Islam. We also notice that they are one-dimensional in their acceptance of what Islam’s regulations are, while Islam in fact allows some malleability based on certain fundamental axioms. Then there are other types of confused fellows, who replace the divinely ordained rituals with acts of social service or welfare, and think that these are of the same status as formal worship!
o And yet others reduce Islam to social organization and statecraft, which leads to them concluding that no Muslims ever existed before they came on the scene.
o Of course, in reality, Islam establishes a particular relationship of servitude and obedience between the person and His Lord – it is neither wishy-washy emotional experiences nor social regimentation, but rather the implementation of all that is included in the Qur’an, the Ahadeeth, and the Shariah. Thus, it may very well happen that one reaps many benefits in this world due to the following of Islam comprehensively, but the true success is his following the code of Islam to begin with, regardless of what worldly benefits he may or may not attain.
o The Verse 2:4 mentions certain details about faith in the unseen, particularly with respect to the Afterlife. The Companion Ibn Mas’ud and Ibn ‘Abbas (Radhiallahu Anhum) mentioned that the Muttaquun in the Prophet’s ﷺ time were of two types: Those who were idolaters before embracing Islam, and those who were People of the Book before becoming Muslims. The previous Verse refers to the first group, and the second Verse refers to this second group. As we know, those who became Muslims after being from the Ahl ul Kitaab receive a double reward.
o We see that every Muslim has to believe in the ea1rlier Divine Books, insofar that they were a revelation from Allah and thus were true [except for the alterations made by earlier nations within those Books], and that it was incumbent on people to act upon them, but now these regulations have been abrogated and replaced with the injunctions of the Qur’an.
o We noticethat belief in something being true is different from acting upon that thing. This is important when discussing with Christians and Jews, but also when discussing with some of the Ahl-ul-Hadeeth types of people, who consider something to be acted upon obligatorily simply because its chain of narrators is correct. Yes, the chain may be correct, the meaning may not be in doubt, and yet there may be some issues preventing us from acting upon the Hadeeth in question, such as abrogation and so forth. If someone is willing to accept this for certain Qur’anic Verses (and in fact they must accept it for certain Qur’anic Verses), then there is no reason to deny it for Ahadeeth.
o There is another issue as well, in that just as the Holy Qur’an has been preserved and previous books altered, likewise the Ahadeeth and the practical Shariah have been preserved while the sayings and actions of previous Prophets have not been reliably conveyed to us with the same fidelity. This is something that shows the care and scrupulousness of the Muslim community in comparison to others, since the Muslim scholars had the sharpness of mind to understand that the preservation of the religion is to be carried out through a robust methodology. It also shows the favor of Allah on this nation, in that the codification of the religion could take place without fear of constant persecution in the critical early stages of the religion (as in the case of Christianity) – the importance of this factor cannot be overstated.
o There is one footnote, mentioning that nowadays we see the translation and dissemination of many of the scared books of other religions amongst the common people (and nowadays much more so due to the Internet). To those Muslims of a Western orientation, they may wish to study such books casually, even though this is against the mores of Islam [because many a time such Muslims are in a state of confusion to begin with (and let us say that “trying to find deeper spirituality by dabbling into the ‘wisdom’ of other religions” is a type of confusion). So how would reading other books, and source books at that, help them out, when they do not know much about Islam to begin with, and perhaps they did not even know about the existence of proper Islamic spirituality to begin with!]. When faced with books of the Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, or other traditions, we cannot affirm or deny anything, except to say that the statements agreeing with the Qu’ran and Islam in general are correct – but to make such a definitive statement is also difficult, since other traditions normally present things in a form that is difficult to comment on except if one has encyclopedic knowledge of that religious tradition, and this something that most Muslims would not have, especially those younger Muslims who are only dabbling into such books. Thus, the translator and editors of this Tafseer mention that only with correct knowledge, aptitude, as ell as the proper spiritual setup guided by a proper Muslim master can one take up the reading of such books.
An argument to the Finality of Prophethood
o From this Verse 2:4 we also learn the great lesson that Muhammad ﷺ is the final Messenger of Allah. For this Verse mentions what has been revealed before Muhammad ﷺ, but it does not say something is to come after him ﷺ. We know that the necessity of believing in the Torah, the Injeel, and other earlier books was in fact familiar among the people, and yet it was mentioned. So if there was a future Book, or a future Prophet, then this would have been even more of an urgent matter to disclose to all Muslims. Yet we see that in all the Verses of the Qur’an discussing this matter [about 40 or 50 such Verses] belief in the previous Prophets and books is mentioned, but nothing is said about a future Prophet, a future Book, etc. [examples are in Verses 16:43, 20:47, 4:60, 42:3, and many more. We see that there is only a mention of Min Qabl or Min Qablika [before, before you] and never Min Ba’d [after, after you]. Even if there had been no explicit mention concerning the Finality of Prophethood in the Qur’an or the Ahadeeth, these types of Verses would have been enough to prove the point.
o Some people may say that this is not sufficient evidence, since there is nothing explicitly denying the possibility in such Verses; to those we will present the explicit Verses and narrations, along with a class on the different types of evidences in Islam and how they are to be used in deriving conclusions.
o Others may say that: “Are you guys ordering what Allah is to reveal and how He is to reveal something, and that if He does not place things the way you like it, you will not follow His Book?!” We say this is a small modification to the above objection. What we are discussing with respect to Verse 2:4 is an indirect proof and deduction, while more explicit evidenced exist that must be considered by all who wish to arrive at the truth of the matter, and the same goes with every matter of Islam. We are definitely not “giving orders to Allah” (and such a charge speaks more to the ignorance of the opponent rather than anything else), but rather we considering the evidence and seeing where it leads us, and not taking an extremist position with respect to any evidence placed in front of us.
The God-Fearing have Faith in the Hereafter
o The other essential quality is faith in the Hereafter, the Aakhirah, that which is beyond the physical reality and also beyond the rational perception of man.
o It is mentioned that even though belief in the Hereafter is after all part of the belief in the Unseen, yet it was mentioned separately since it is this very vivid reality of Heaven and Hellfire that draws men towards action. Moreover, the Sharai’ of all Prophets always included the Oneness of Allah, and the truths of Prophethood and the Hereafter, while the day-to-day practical rules may have been different.
o There comes now a footnote: There are some people calling themselves Muslims, but who think that the horrors of Hellfire cannot possibly be true, their excuse being that this must be an invention of the “Mullas” and “Moulvis”. Subhanallah, if such people had any idea about the Qur’an and the other primary Islamic texts, they would know that this is something very explicitly mentioned in thousands of places, and that it cannot possibly be rejected by a Muslim.
o Another point also comes up: Such people, who are for the most part simply thrown into the Western world, should understand that the ethics of the modern world went through many stages in its development. Sometimes, the thinkers of the Enlightenment were prepared to discard ethics altogether, while those who would have kept still kept ethics for the most part discarded the idea of divine sanction for ethics. Rather, they gave various hypotheses behind the nature and origin of such ethical rules, such as the sovereign state, social will, custom, the pure nature of man and its capacity for self-regulation, and even biological laws. Each one has seemed to be attractive for a time, only to wither away after some time, to the point that in our time there is not even a dim prospect for such types of societies to understand what is the true basis for ethical rules, or even if they are needed in the first place…and this is something to be expected, since discarding the belief in Allah and in the Hereafter eventually brings only confusion and loss.
Faith in the Hereafter: A revolutionary belief
o We see that the Islamic belief in the Akhirah is in fact revolutionary for the human being. This is because it led to the total transmutation of the morals and manners of the Muslims until they achieved distinction in all areas. To understand why this was so, we see that the one who does not believe in the Akhirah will see the only goals as those related to the fulfillment of physical or emotional needs, will be in a state of mental intolerability when the criterion between truth and falsehood comes in front of him and between him and the seeking of his needs.
o In some cases, these needs may be benign, but in other cases, these needs are “criminal” and the penal codes do prevent the people from committing crimes but only to a certain level. Those who are habitual criminals grow used to their crimes, and may not even care about getting thrown into jail for life, or even to be on death row [in the first case, if they are powerful enough, they can run their activities even from within the prisons. In the second case, they can appeal their sentence numerous times and this might even take decades to finally run its course, all the while living off of the government, or more precisely, the common folk in their countries.]
o Then there are others who will not do evil deeds but only in the public sphere, while privately they do whatever they want of their wildest sick fantasies, as long as they cannot be publicly prosecuted or reprimanded. This is also why in these types of societies, the stage is being set where two or more people can basically do anything and everything to and for each other, as long as they all agree and consent to it.
o We even saw a case in Germany some years ago where a volunteer consented to his cannibalization by someone else – in fact he was not the only “volunteer” for this terrible and gruesome act, as this was part of a “supply and demand”, as if it were a normal marketplace for these acts. In this case the offender is in jail for life, but we cannot discount that perhaps in some years, if the laws go in a certain direction and the mental state of both parties is judged to be otherwise “healthy”, that such matters may become legal, since there may be nothing legally preventing both parties from “satisfying their needs”, no matter how outrageous these “needs” really are.
o However, it is only with belief in the Akhirah that one’s private acts can be made to conform to one’s good public behavior. This is why when the effects of such a belief were present in the early days of Islam, non-Muslims would literally fall in love with Islam merely at seeing the Muslims and nothing else.
o Thus, this is what makes people see beyond the punishment of this world and consider the eternal consequences of their actions. Again, it is very easy for someone to know beforehand that they will be jailed for life if they kill a person, yet they may consider this to be a price worth paying for committing such an act, due to whatever logic they may use connected to this crime of theirs. They may even know exactly how to commit the crime and walk free by using the technicalities and loopholes of the legal system.
o Note that in a true Islamic system, we understand that there very well be loopholes and tricks to evade punishments or situations that someone does not wish to be in, but there is no way that anyone can escape Allah and the truth of the situations in the Hereafter. This is what mde the earliest Muslims prefer the punishment of this world for adultery, so that their bodies and souls would be totally cleansed and they would be ready to enter Paradise in safety and total felicity. Can such an effect ever take place with only physical punishments limited to this world? It is indeed difficult to envisage such a situation.
o Of course, we can envisage a response to this, in that the “organically atheist” (those where the atheism was not forced upon them by the government) countries having low levels of economic imbalance among their citizens in fact have low crime rates, and all of their living indexes are very high, and they constantly score very high in worldwide surveys.
o But there are at least two issues in here: Firstly, as we mentioned above, their inner behavior, their private acts have basically no limitations other than the avoidance of public disorder – the German case above, had it been approved by the laws of the land, would have been an acceptable way of satisfying certain private needs of the individuals involved without it being a crime in these so-called “very successful” countries. Secondly, we are talking in here about the worldly benefits of belief in the Hereafter, and we acknowledge up-front that what we have been mentioning up to now are in the secondary class of benefits one may acquire from the application of this dogma in our lives.
o Thus, we know that there are many things in Islam which the non-Muslim opponents may find distasteful based on their own ideology, but our way to discuss these matters is much more oriented towards discussing the fundamentals of Islam, such as the Oneness of Allah and the truth of the Qur’an, rather than to compare and contrast worldly benefits of the Islamic religion versus that of other worldviews.
o Now, one more important point is mentioned by the exegete (RA) that is a partial reply to the above objections. The Qur’an uses the word Yuuqinuuna (have certain faith) rather than Yu’minuuna (believe) when describing those who hold on to the Hereafter with certainty. The suggestion is that only by having complete certitude (akin to visualizing the reward and punishment in front of one’s eyes) can we expect to see a total shift in both the inner and outer realms of a person’s behavior. Again, a nominal Muslim may get away from almost every Islamic punishment on this Earth on technicalities and loopholes, but he will not be able to run away from Allah, who always knows the inner depths of the hearts and will judge based on this added dimension on the Day of Judgment.
o For example, if a person commits blasphemy worthy of a harsh punishment, but recants, and commits the same “blasphemy-then-recanting ritual” a thousand times, the Sharia can only consider the outer matters and it stipulates forgiveness, but the Day of Judgment has no such forgiving demeanor (since the person was given “rope” again and again), and this person unfortunately had a diseased heart and Allah knew that he was only playing games with the Islamic rules and the Muslim community at large- may Allah save us from this calamity.
o Thus, all in all, it is only the certitude of Imaan and all of its branches that makes one be on the guidance from Allah, and to be of the successful, as mentioned in Verse 2:5.
Commentary on Verses 6:7
o So we know the qualities of the believers and God-fearing ones as per the first 5 Verses of this Surah. The next 15 Verses talk about those who have rejected the guidance of the Qur’an. There were two groups of such people during the Prophet’s ﷺ time. The Kaafiruun (disbelievers) were those who showed open hostility and rejection. Then there were those who because they had absolutely no hint of morals with them and were greedy, tried to pass themselves off as true Muslims, while revealing their disbelief to the open disbelievers in secret, and telling them that they only wished to sow doubt in the hearts of Muslims and to spy on them. These are the Munaafiquun (hypocrites); the first 2 of the fifteen Verses talk about the open disbelievers and the other thirteen about the hypocrites.
o Thus, the first 20 Verses of this Chapter show us that the Qur’an is the unquestionable guidance from Allah, and then divide mankind into Mu’minuun and Mutaquun on the one hand, and Kaafiruun and Munaafiquun on the other. The first group is the object of supplication in Verse 1:6, while refuge is sought from becoming like the second group in Verse 1:7. Throughout the Qur’an, the division of mankind is based on the principle of belief/disbelief, not due to class, race, color, geography, etc.
o The exegete (RA) says that for those disbelievers who became obstinate against Islam, there was a punishment for them even in this world: their hearts were sealed, and their very senses could not accept the truth, as if they had no mind to think – but of course, only related to the Divine Revelation. There is also a prediction that they will never believe, but note that this referred only to those who refused to listen to the Prophet ﷺ and whom Allah knew were going to die in a state of disbelief. It does not refer to all disbelievers, for many of them later became Muslims.
What is Kufr (Infidelity)?
o Lexically, Kufr denotes to hide or to conceal. This also includes ingratitude, since there would be a covering up of beneficence shown by someone. In Islamic parlance, Kufr means the denial of anything that is obligatory to believe in. Of course, the basis of Imaan itself is that one should believe with certitude every thing that has been brought from Allah and His Messenger ﷺ, when such is established with Qat’i (definitive) evidence; denying anything that is of this level is termed Kufr.
The meaning of ‘Indhaar’ (warning) by a Prophet
o The phrase ‘to warn’ has been used for ‘Indhaar’. This word actually means that type of news which causes alarm or concern, while ‘Ibshaar’ is that news that makes people rejoice. Also notice though, that Indhaar is not something for merely frightening people away, but is much more related to a compassionate warning, in the way a father warns his children against fires or wild beasts, because he cares for his children. We see then, that a thief frightens and threatens but is not a ‘Nadheer’ (warner). Thus, this title is employed only for Prophets and Messengers, who not only convey a message, but they also speak to their listeners with sympathy and a genuine regard for their good.
o The first Verse (#6) comforts the Prophet ﷺ, telling him that certain people are so arrogant that they will refuse to follow the truth even if they recognize it; for them, it is the same whether they are warned or not. And the next Verse clarifies that the reason for this is that Allah has set a seal on their ears and their hearts, so that they have lost the capability to accept the truth. And on their eyes, there is a covering. The reason for this distinction is that the ears and the heart may accept information from many directions, but the eyes can only work in one direction, and when a covering is placed over them, they cease to function.
Favor withdrawn by Allah is a punishment
o The real punishment for sins and disbelief are in the other world. However, we know that sometimes one might receive a punishment in this world as well. And at times, this comes in a very grievous form: Allah’s Tawfeeq (accommodation) to differentiate between good and evil is withdrawn, until the sinner cannot even see good as good and evil as evil, his heart has been fully blackened, and he can make no distinctions at all concerning his state – in the Ahadeeth the Qur’anic terms Ra’n or Rain (dust) have been used for this darkness (see Verse 83:14). Another narration says that the heart grows dark due to sins, but clears again if the servant seeks Allah’s Forgiveness.
o One important lesson from the Verse is also that the lack of benefit in this case is for the Kuffaar only, not for the Porphet ﷺ – for him ﷺ, his reward increases the more he calls all the people to the truth, even if many do not come to the path (of course, Muhammad ﷺ was given so many followers, but some Prophets had a small group of followers, some three, one, or no followers). And similar is the case for the Da’wah worker today, who gets rewarded even if he was not effective.
A doubt is removed
o There is a doubt that may arise when comparing Verse 2:7 [which mentions seals on hearts and ears, and covering on th eyes, of the disbelievers] with Vere 83:14, which talks about Ra’n on their hearts. What happens is that it is the rust itself that is the seal and the covering. The objection in truth, whih comes up again and again in argument with non-Muslims, is that how can the disbeliever be punished when Allah is the One blocking their hearts, ears, and eyes, is this not injustice? The exegete says that it is their choice to be deviated, but it is also Allah’s Creation of these actions and choices of His servants. So in fact, what we have is a “created choice of the servants”. In Verse 2:7, the fact that it is created is emphasized when Allah attributes this to Himself, and in Verse 83:14, it is the choice aspect that is emphasized. But, may Allah have mercy on you and all of us, never think that it is a “choice not created by Allah” (thus commiting ‘Shirk’) or that it is not a “choice”, which is also evil to think, since it is denying that Allah crtead that thought in the servant’s mind, while he felt no compulsion, and that would be a denial of the plain sensory facts in front of us. Thus, the Ahl us Sunnah says no to the Jabriyya sect, and no to the Qadriyya sect.
Commentary on Verses 8-20
o These thirteen Verses are about the “crafty” disbelievers who claimed to be Muslims but in reality were not so, the Munafiquun.
o The Verses 8 and 9 describe this group’s classic behavior. The Verse is worded such that it says that they (try to) deceive Allah, even though these Munaafiqs knew this was impossioble. But the Qur’an equates their desire to deceive the Prophet ﷺ asnd the real Muslims with the desire to deceive Allah.
o The result of all this is, of course, that the hypocrites only deceive themselves, since it is impossible to attribute “being deceived” to Allah, an the Prophet ﷺ is protected from their tricks through revelation. Thus, this group will have to bear the whole darkness of their plans.
o Verse 10 mentions that the reason for this foolish behavior is the malady in their hearts, which Allah has caused to grow in intensity. Now, we know that bodily disease is the loss of balance of certain elements in the person’s body. But in Islam, ‘disease’ is also used for certain mental or psychic states, which deprive a person of the chance to perform good deeds, an they may even deprive him of common decency, until he meets a spiritual death. Imam Junayd al-Baghdaadi (RA) said that diseases of the heart arise from surrendering to one’s desires. When applied to the hypocrites, their disease is unbelief, and it is obvious that arrogant ungratefulness to one’s Creator is a terrible spiritual disease. But there are other factors, such as the venom is their hearts which prevents them from speaking their mind while they are dying of jealousy inside when anything good befalls the Muslims, their only hope being that perhaps they may gain petty worldly gains if they stick to the Muslims. Thus, this may present itself in very outwardly visible physical anguish and worry, since the hypocrite is neither with the Muslims nor with the non-Muslims fully, but is only dancing to the tune that fits him best at that time.
o The meaning of “Allah increasing their disease” is precisely with regards to this jealousy, since they will see Islam growing more and more, which makes their mental/psychic state worse and worse, until the “die in their anger”, either figuratively or literally.
o Verses 11 and 12 show the tricks of these hypocrites; they hoped to produce chaos and strife within the Muslim Ummah, while pretending to be serving the cause of Islam. The Qur’an always mentions clearly that oral claims are insufficient, but rather if someone is truly working for mischief, then that is what he is, regardless of all the excuses he may make.
o The hypocrites are so diseased that they see their own huge blemishes of character as merits, while they see the good attributes of believers as defects. An important footnote is given, that the hypocrites were indeed bold, doing things like calling Muslims “fools”; but this was only in front of the poor amongst the Muslims, for with the strong Muslims, they would never dare to say such things.
o This shows to us the huge importance for the Muslims to be strong and proud of their religion (only in the correct way), and we can discern the huge importance of this today, as Muslims and Islam are being ridiculed by so many people, even by people within Muslim nations, even by those who call themselves Muslims and yet they mock many of the undubitable matters of Islam. Subhanallah, it seems that we have reached close to the stage where holding on to Islam is like holding a hot piece of coal, or where the true followers of the Prophet ﷺ will be the Ghurabaa (the strangers, those who have been thrown out of their tribes). May Allah save us all and give us the light to be steadfast in religion.
o An important rule uis also hinted at in Verse #13, when it is said tht hypocrites are told to believe as “the people” believe, and they retort that they will not believe like “fools”. The “people” in here are none other than the Companions, and anyone who calls them “fools” is in fact himself lost. Notice that in here, Allah has put the cornerstone of faith in the belief of the Sahaaba, and others will be judged accordingly. There are important epistemic considerations in connection to this Verse, but in summary, we should consider the impossibility of rejecting the truth of that which is widely transmitted by a large group of people.
o Verse #14 talks about the trickery of the hypocrites, who would declare their Islam in front of the Muslims, but would say they were only jesting when back with their own group, or with the disbelievers at large.
o Verse #15 comments on the attitude of complacency from the hypocrites, who thought that they were getting away with their tricks, since Divine Punishment was not descending on them right away. But Allah was in fact only granting them an extremely long rope to save themselves, but when their limit eventually ran out, they were caught, ridiculed, and punished – this is termed as Allah’s “mockery” of them.
o Verse #16 shows that these people even lacked the common sense of discrimination. They knew what idolatry and Islam were, insofar as they knew truth from falsehood. Yet, they still showed preference for falsehood over truth, while sticking to the Muslims only for petty worldly gains. Allah says that in doing so, these Munaafiqs do not even know the principles of basic trade [who would throw away a bar of pure gold for a small lollipop, for example? Only a small child, or someone whose mind does not understand the difference between things. What about if he really knows the difference, and he still chooses the lower option, then what is he? The answer in this case is obvious].
o Verses #17 to #20 bring analogies to show the terrible plight of the hypocrites, by use of two extended similes. The Munaafiqs are in fact two groups: One that only sticks to the Muslims for wordly gains; these are likened to a man who found light, but loses it again, and is left in darkness. Another group were those who sometimes wished to be genuine Muslims, but worldly interests would not allow them [i.e. if Muslims suffered a reverse, they immediately doubted Islam itself]. The prabale of these people is of a man stuck in a thunderstorm, who moves a step or two with the aid of lightning, but is stuck in his place if that light does not come. Both groups are warned of Allah’s Power, and that He may fully destroy them if He wills.
Injunctions and related considerations
o (1) Some people ask whether the distinction between disbelief and hypocrisy still holds in our day. During the Prophet’s ﷺ time, two ways existed of identifying the Munaafiq: Either through revelation that a certain person was in fact a dibeliever in his heart, or through the outer words and actions of the hypocrites themselves, if they did something so totally against Islam that he would be seen to be outside of its fold. For us nowadays, only the second option remains. The Qur’an (also) calls these types of people Mulhid and the Ahadeeth, Zindeeq. But note that if such ugliness in belief is proved from him beyond any doubt, then Islam treats him like a normal disbeliever. Thus, there is no distinction in reality between a Kaafir and a Munaafiq in this sense, even though in terms of the inward/outward (before the Munaafiq’s being exposed), one coyuld say that this distinction existed. But from the point of view of what happens when he is exposed, or when he dies and resurrected, his fate is the same (in fact, the Qur’an mentions he hypocrites as being in the lowest part of Hellfire).
o (2) We see that the hypocrites said that they believed in Allah and the Last Day, but the Qur’an directly says they are not believers at all. The exegete points out a number of things. First, they did not believe in the Prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ, so from this angle they could not be called believers. And as a consequence of this, their belief in Allah and the Hereafter was also extremely lacking in correctness. Anyone can have a vague notion of the Divine Being and of the Afterlife, but it will not be taken as valid until it confirms exactly with what Allah has revealed and what His Messenger has laid down.
o Two more issues are noteworthy: First, many of the hypocrites were in fact Jews pretending to be Muslims. The concept of the Deity is Judaism, as well as that of the Hereafter, has had a huge number of twists and turns in its history, so much so that someone may only be having a vague idea about the nature of the Supreme Deity, or not even accept resurrection, yet Jewish orthodoxy would in many cases not be able to pass a sentence that he has left the religion or that he is in fact a heretic – the reason being that these extremely crucial articles of faith were left wide open for too many and too vast of interpretations and differences of opinion to occur within them. In Islam, of course, interpretations exist about secondary matters, but for example, the very nature and existence of Allah is a cardinal matter of importance, and what one can have are different ways of explaining matters, but not wholly different base concepts.
o The editor also mentions that in our day and age, all sorts of false gods have come up, with different names such as “Reason”, “Nature”, “Man”, “Life”, “The Ground of Being”, “Existentialism”, the Jungian “Collective Unconscious” and so much more. What happens is that these (mostly Western constructs) come against a background where Christian theology and philosophy could not stop th e mushrooming of all these different “sects” and “ideologies”, this mostly sue to the weaknesses inherent in Christian theology itself.
o From this then, we can see that such Jews believed neither in Allah nor in the Hereafter. For they considered ‘Uzayr as Allah’s “Son”, and believed that the progeny of the Prophets would not be called to account, no matter how it acted [I believe they were referring to themselves, the “tribe of Judah”, as being exempt from judgment.] It may be said that Jews have different views on this, and that some are quite strict in this regard concerning themselves, but the issue is that their views differ markedly in this matter, and it cannot be taken to signify “concrete belief” as required by Islam.
o (3) We already mentioned that the criterion for acceptance of Imaan is that it conforms to that of the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ. Thus, if anyone invents a seemingly exciting and “cool” belief, this is not given any consideration if it goes against the belief of the Companions. In this, again, there are big lessons about the critical importance of Tawaatur and Ijma’ in setting forth the boundaries of Islamic belief. The person who deviates from said belief is not considered a Mu’min (a true Muslim) until he comes back to the full fold of proper Imaan.
Removal of a doubt
o The previous paragraph brings up the question that does every deviation not count as disbelief? This is sometimes brought up in the context of abstaining from making Takfeer on the Ahl-ul-Qibla. However, for this rule to be effective, those who pray towards the Ka’ba must accept all of the essentials of the religion; for if anyone does a gross twisting as Islam so as to deny an essential tenet or doctrine of Islam, then his praying towards the Qibla is not enough to keep him within Islam.
Lying is contemptible
o (4) When we read the phrase “We believe in Allah and in the Last Day”, this means that even the hypocrites knew the ugliness of lying (to some degree), in that they did not bold-facedly say they believed in Prophethood while such was not true. So they had this much sense in them.
Misbehaving (with) Prophets is misbehaving with Allah
o (5) We see the Verse where it is mentioned that the hypocrites were trying to deceive Allah, even though this could not have possibly occurred to them (they could not have imagined even for a moment that Allah could get deceived). But the truth is that they were impertinent and disrespectful to Muhammad ﷺ and the Companions, and Allah took this as trying to deceive Him Himself. We thus learn that those who mock the Sunnah (for example), or who are disrespectful towards the men of Allah are also trying to be rude to Allah and to “deceive” Him, even though this may not have explicitly occurred to them. So we should be careful in this regard.
The curse of telling lies
o (6) Another point is made. The Verses say that the hypocrites will meet with punishment for having told lies. But we see that they did much worse than this, including disbelief in matters of faith, hating the Prophet ﷺ and conspiring for the worst of evils to befall the Muslims. So someone may ask that why is lying mentioned, when it is a comparatively lesser crime? The answer is that habitual lying is what drove them towards these destructive sins and internal states. That is why in certain places (such as Verse 22:30), Allah equates idol-worship with telling lies.
Who are reformers and mischief-makers?
o (7) The Verses say that the hypocrites emphatically denied that they were causing disorder in the land, to the point of saying that they were only doing reform and nothing else. However, Allah rebuffs their claim just as emphatically. We see also that the Qur’an says that the hypocrites were not even aware that their acts were indeed causing disorder. After all, their acts were not like murder, rape, etc., that everyone can see are disturbances. But their acts were more subtle, chewing away at the morals of men until the doors to all disorder were opened.
o Thus, the Munafiquun would deny doing the first type of disorder, but the consequences of their hatred for the religion of Allah gave way to much greater disorder than what can be expected from robbers, murderers, or even beasts. This last category of problems can be taken care of by law and order agencies, but what happens when the men running these agencies themselves fall sharply off the mark? The result is as we see today, where the best technology cannot keep law and order problems from surfacing on a mass scale.
o That is because men have to be molded into real men, who holistically understand the true worth of life. This is what the Prophet ﷺ achieved, and why those places where Islam was applied properly did not witness law and order problems of a high degree, nor were draconian methods required to keep order. This is unprecedented in human history.
o Thus, the Prophet ﷺ taught the people the fear of Allah and the reality of the Day of Judgment; but today, those in charge merely spend sums in cameras or agencies to spy on people to prevent them from breaking the law, and in fact take steps to destroy the fear of Allah and of the Aakhirah in the hearts of men.
o The exegete (Rahimahulla) says that the open criminals may be able to find a cure somehow, but those who operate stealthily have a harder road. In all cases, it is only Allah who knows the true reformers from the mischief-makers; our advice in this apparent world is to follow the Sharia in all its external and internal spheres, so that we may serve the cause of order in this world
Verses 21-22 (Commentary)
o A review of Verses linked together: We know that the previous 20 Verses divided men according to their belief and laid out some of their qualities. Now, these two present Verses present the message for which the Qur’an has been sent. In here, the Qur’an not only exhorts men to give up worshipping the created and turn to Allah, but also gives evidences that should be enough to convince people concerning the Tawheed of Allah, and of the need to worship Him.
o Verse 21 uses the word An-Naas [to cover all the previously mentioned groups], and the message is: “Worship your Rabb [Lord]”. As we know ‘Ibaada means to give all one’s best efforts in total obedience due to the awe and reverence one has towards the object of worship, and this is always only for Allah. Rabb [Lord] is the one who gives nurture, and is a carefully chosen word in here, so that the readers will understand their helplessness in front of Allah, and so that they know that they are fully in need of Him. So after this truth dawns on them, is there any Lord worthy or worship other than Allah?
o The message is then delivered with different shades of meanings depending on the group that is addressed: For outright disbelievers, they ought to give up worshipping the creation and instead turn to Allah. Hypocrites should be sincere in faith, sinning Muslims should change their ways and perfect their obedience, and God-fearing Muslims should remain stead-fast and make ever-greater efforts for Allah.
o These Verses expand upon the theme by specifying that it was Allah who created “you and those before you”. In here, two things are seen: the wonderful creation of man from a lowly liquid and location, and the fact that He created what did not exist before [thus emphasizing the absolute helplessness of man]. Also, by mentioning only “those before you”, it is pointing to the finality of Prophethood, since every Muslim from the time of revelation until the end of time is from the Ummah (nation) of Muhammad ﷺ, and there will be no succeeding Ummah or religion.
o The final phrase of Verse #21 is “so that you may become God-fearing”. It may also refer to saving one’s self from evil or from Hellfire, but in all cases, salvation only comes when one worships Allah alone without ‘Shirk’.
o One note: In this last phrase, the particle “L’alla” [so that you may] has been employed, indicating an expectation, a hope. But we know that when one has Imaan, and does his deeds correctly, he will definitely go to Heaven, so why is “L’alla” used? It is used because even if one’s deeds and faith are perfect, it is only the Grace of Allah that makes one enter Paradise. The good deeds and correct faith that we may see from anyone is a sign of divine grace, not its cause.
o Verse #22 recounts those nurturing acts of Allah related to man’s physical environment. Thus, both the Anfus (internal) and Afaaq (external) blessings descending upon man from Allah are mentioned in these two Verses.
o From these external bounties, the first one mentioned is the Earth, which has been made a bed for man. It is neither soft and fluid like water, nor hard like stone and steel that cannot be easily used, but is of a middle state. Note that the word Firaash (bed, something spread out) does not necessarily mean that the Earth is not round. The Qur’an describes things in an aspect that is familiar to the average man, whether he is well-educated or illiterate, from the village or from the city, and so forth, and in this case, the globe of the Earth appears flat to the onlooker, and it has been described thus. Also note that other explanations for ‘Firaash’ can and have been given by scholars of Islam.
o One comment about the level of people’s understanding, insight, and education: Some people might say that if certain things are absolutely wrong, the incorrect understanding of more primitive types of people cannot be used as an excuse for the Qur’an to have worded matters in a certain way. But we answer this by saying that the Qur’an was not making a statement concerning absolute “dry facts” related to the Earth in the first place, which is why there is scope for considering the way that different people may look at things. It is incorrect to assume that every single statement of the Qur’an should be compared to the “scientific mindset” (which is different than “science” in and of itself) before the reader decides whether the matter under discussion is true or false.
o Another bounty is that the sky has been made like a beautiful ceiling, and that Allah sent down water from the sky. Again, the Qur’an’s expression does not mean that clouds are irrelevant, but is rather an idiom used in here. In other Verses [such as 56:69 and 78:14], the clouds have been specifically mentioned.
o The fourth bounty is to bring fruits from this water, and to provide nourishment to man by means of these fruits.
o We see that in the first three bounties, man’s effort does not enter into the picture at all. In the case of the fruits though, a simple man may think that human effort plays an effective and decisive part in making fruits come out of the land. But the Qur’an, in certain Verses, stresses that man’s only (apparent) job is to remove the hindrances to the birth and growth of the plant, and to protect it from getting destroyed, such as making the water reach the plants at the proper time and in the proper quantity. Thus, when the Qur’an asks [in Verse 56:63] whether the man is the grower of the produce or is it Allah, the sensible one can only answer that Allah is the grower of produce, of plants, and of everything that grows.
o So these Verses teach us that it is only Allah who brought forth man out of nothingness, gave him sustenance through the Earth, the sky, the rains, and the fruits. Thus, only Allah should be worshipped, not idols or other men who are as helpless as he is. Again, the whole Universe (on the orders of Allah) has been placed at the service of man, so that man may worship Allah alone. But there are men who forget all of these truths, and instead of worshipping the One True God, worship a billion false gods.
o The end of this Verse #22 sums this up by declaring (translation): “So, do not set up parallels to Allah when you know”. The man with minimal sense then, will understand that since Allah is the One in whose Hands everything goes back to, then there is no way that any other being can be set up as a rival for worship.
o A non-Muslim might bring up the objection that: “Do you mean to tell us that we are dim-witted and silly for not having accepted Islam? Is that your claim about us?” In fact, there are two options: Either it is a matter of being ignorant about the truth, or it is a matter of knowing what the truth is and then rejecting it due to arrogance, pride, etc. What Islam says is that it would be much better if the non-Muslim were totally ignorant about Islam, since in this case Allah might judge him leniently since the proof has not been established upon him as yet. But if the proof is indeed established, then it is difficult for him to be excused, since he has enough information to be able to seek the light of Islam, and yet he refuses to do so. In this last case, what excuse can he give in front of Allah on the Day when neither wealth nor relatives will come to one’s aid? So the non-Muslim who knows about the Islamic religion is bound to act on his knowledge, and not complain about certain rules of Islam, or what nomenclature Islam uses for this or that type of disbeliever, etc. (there are so many examples of this order). This is seriously our heart-felt advice, and may Allah guide all who seek His Path to the correct way.
o There is yet another question that some people may ask, in that they say that Allah’s creating us does not automatically confer “rights” on Him to be worshipped. The truth is that all “rights” depend on His Approval and Command, so if Allah says the first “right” is that He should be worshipped by the servants, then that is what the first right truly is, without question. And to give an analogy from another angle, if a person were to help someone in the street, it would seem strange even to the most heartless of people that the benefactor would not be thanked by the one who received the benefit, so what about the case where Allah creates and gives nourishment to the human being for decades on end, without taking them to account for his evils, and giving him lifeline after lifeline to repent and to improve himself? There is much more that can be said about this issue and this is not meant to be an exhaustive answer, but the above should suffice as a small explanation.
o These two verses then, call men to Tawheed, the purpose for having sent down Prophets along with their Books and their Sharia regulations. Note that this doctrine has an all-pervading impact upon the human in all spheres of his life, for when a man fully comprehends Tawheed, he will look only towards Allah, since he beholds Allah behind the veil of apparent causes.
o Today we have “very advanced” people whose idol is something like “Energy”, for example. But they did not have insight, which is why they are stuck in material-only “worship”. They are like the villager who sees a train stop and move at the waving of red and green flags, and thinks that these flags actually control the train’s movements. Another more perceptive person might say that the movement is due to the driver or the engine. But the one with full Baseera (insight) would only see Allah as the creator of the flags, the driver, the engine, and he does not doubt Divine Omnipotence.
The Doctrine of Tawheed: A source of peace in human life
o Tawheed is the most fundamental doctrine of Islam, and if properly understood, would confer full peace on the human heart. For that heart knows that every change is by the Will of Allah, and a manifestation of His Wisdom. Thus, man’s disquiet and dissension cease, and the world turns into a “Paradise” for him. He knows that the states of the friend and the foe both come from Allah, and he expects nothing from anyone, since he only sees the Giver and the Withholder, Allah.
o So we know that the Shahaadah has the greatest significance in Islam. But it is not only a matter of the tongue, but also of the heart. We know this, since there are now hundreds of millions of people who profess the Shahaadah, but their lives do not show the color of Tawheed. They should be like the Salaf (pious predecessors) who were not awed by material power, wealth, numbers or pomp from following the way of Allah. So much so that the Prophet ﷺchallenged every person in the world by saying (translation): “So, try your guile on me, then give me no respite” [Verse 7:195 of the Qur’an]. We also see this when the earliest Muslims were able to conquer large parts of the known world in a few years, due to the true taste and coloring of Tawheed in their hearts.
Verses 23-24 (Commentary)
o The Guidance of the Qur’an rests on two matters. The first is Tawheed, the second is Risaalah (Messengership). We saw that Verses 21 and 22 referred to the aspect of Tawheed by proving to man that only Allah can create everything and that no other existent has any share in this matter. These two present Verses (Numbers 23 and 24) talk about the inimitability of the Qur’an, and make a similar argument, this time for Messengership. That is, since the Qur’an cannot be produced by mankind or from any of the creation, its only other source is Allah, who has revealed it to the Prophet ﷺ. Note that all of the creation, from that time to the end of the world, has been challenged to come up with something like the Qur’an, and forewarned that they will fail [just as all creatures would fail if they tried to bring something into existence out of nothing, since this is not in their capabilities. So the argument is similar with respect to the Qur’an, the difference being that in this case, the Qur’an is a also a proof for his Prophet ﷺ being truthful. Also note that if anyone insists on his disbelief after he is certain about the source of the Qur’an, then it is obvious that Hellfire will be his destination.
The Miraculous Qur’an is an (evidence for) the Prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ
o So the Qur’an presents its miraculous character as the evidence for Muhammad’s ﷺ Prophethood. This is because, even though many miracles were manifested at his ﷺ hands, the Qur’an is the greatest of them all. Even among the miracles of all Prophets, this miracle of the Qur’an holds a special position, since the miracles of the previous Prophets ended with the passing on of the respective Prophets (Alayhima Salaam), but for the Qur’an, it remains within the world until the Day of Resurrection.
o Next, there is a discussion on the word ‘Raib’. We see that ‘Raib’ signifies that doubt or hesitation that has no basis, and can be overcome with a little reflection. For example, in Verse 74:31, the Qur’an mentions that it has brought the truth of some matter (regarding angels) forward so that the People of the Book and Muslims should have no ‘Raib’ (doubt) – meaning that such types of doubt are not consistent with people of knowledge.
o And likewise, only those who have no knowledge would entertain doubts about the Qur’an, as mentioned in Verse 2:2 and in this present Verse under discussion.
o Thus, for those who doubt that the Qur’an is the Word of Allah, and instead believe that it is the product of Muhammad ﷺ or any other man [or creature from among the Creation], the challenge is presented to them that they should produce a Surah like the Qur’an. Technically, a Surah is a passage of the Qur’an set apart from other passages by Divine Commandment. Since the definite particle ‘al’ [the] is not used here, then the production/invention of a Surah like the shortest Surah would hypothetically also be admissible to meet the challenge.
o If one says that perhaps a certain man or group may be unable to come up with something like the Qur’an, but this is not a proof that others cannot meet the challenge, then the answer is that the Qur’an widens the scope to the absolute maximum one can think of, saying that the opponent can bring all Shuhadaa’ [witnesses or helpers] to come and assist in this effort, if this is what they think will be sufficient to meet this challenge. [As a side note, it could also refer to the idolaters’ calling their “gods” to testify on their behalf, since the idolaters believed that their idols would be present on the Day of Judgment in their favor (if the Day if Judgment would ever come, according to their considerations)]
o Verse #24 is the one declaring emphatically that they will inevitably fail, and that once they do, they should be humble and not persist in disbelief, so that the Fire will not consume them.
o One important thing that we have mentioned before is repeated in here: The Makkan infidels were ready to sacrifice all of their wealth and their very lives in trying to obliterate Islam, so this Verse gave them an “easy way out.” Also note that their tribal sense of honor was seriously hurt when they were mocked at (by the Qur’an saying that they would never meet the challenge). But even with the conglomeration of all these factors, none came up to methodically face this challenge, giving the biggest of proofs about the inimitability of the Qur’an.
The Holy Qur’an: A Living Miracle
o Now, comes an important point, for the exegete (RA) mentions some of the books that have taken up the issue of the inimitability of the Qur’an. Among the ones mentioned, we have Nazm al-Qur’an by al-Jaahiz, ‘Ijaaz al-Qur’an, written by Abu Abdullah al-Waasiti; and two more works of the same name, one by Ibn ‘Isa ar-Rabbaani, another by al-Baaqilaani. This has also been discussed in parts of other books, such as As-Suyuuti’s al-Itqaan and his al-Khasaais al-Kubra, in ar-Raazi’s Tafseer al-Kabeer, in Ash-Shifaa of Qadhi Iyaad, ‘I’jaaz al-Qur’aan by Mustafa Sadiq ar-Rafi’i, al-Wahy al-Muhammadyy by Raashid Ridha, and I’jaaz al-Qur’aan by Shabbir Ahmad Uthmaani.
o One additional noteworthy point is concerned with the voluminous commentaries written on the Qur’an, along with the many works that cover different aspects of the Qur’an and the huge considerations arising from it. A resume of this last topic is simply not possible, since it is extremely vast. But, one can give some of the reasons why the Qur’an is miraculous
Qualities that make the Qur’an a miracle
o (1) The Qur’an is incomparable for its comprehensiveness even among other Sacred Books of the world. Thus, it brings to men the ultimate knowledge of a metaphysical order, and it also brings practical guidance in all spheres of human life, private or public, spiritual or physical. Even if someone were thinking about the matters from a materialistic perspective, they would have to agree that it is really miraculous that such a book would come to the Arabs, who had no history at all either of metaphysical speculation or of guidance in practical things; and on top of that, it came to the Prophet ﷺ, who shunned the prevailing arts of poetry and rhetoric on which other Arabs prided themselves.
o (2) We know that the Qur’an is guidance for all men at all times, but it first came to the Arabs of the Jaahiliyya. The Qur’an does not only challenge others based on the richness of meaning or the quality of wisdom, but extends it to the mode of expression as well. This is important, since the Arabs knew that they were not “learned people”; but they made up for their lack of knowledge with an expertise in eloquence, so much so that they called outsiders A’jam [the dumb, because they had no proper way of talking, so it was like not being able to say anything at all]. The exegete mentions that some of the Arab pagans were so angry at the Prophet ﷺ that they would have killed themselves in front of him out of extreme spite (the meaning is that they would have practically said: “We would rather kill ourselves than believe in you.”)
o But even with this insatiable anger, no one could come forth and produce something like the Qur’an, even though they were spontaneously eloquent. In fact, the discriminating among the Arabs did admit, though mostly in private, that the Qur’an was indeed inimitable. Some of them had the honesty to say this in public as well, and some [like the well-known poet Labeed] embraced Islam on the spot, since they understood the matter instinctively [just like the shock of seeing a dead man come back to life at the hands of a Prophet like ‘Isa (Alayhi Salaam)], and were honest enough with themselves not to reject the truth when they saw it. Of course, most did not convert, especially in the early stages of Islam, either due to clinging to the ways of their forefathers, or out of spite that the Banu Haashim had been given Prophethood and they had not received it.
o One points that strikes us at least, is that the feelings elicited by the Qur’an and by the message of Islam (such as loyalty towards the message of Islam, or intense hatred, or acceptance of the reality of Islam but a stubborn refusal to accept it publicly) are things that were true at that time, and are still extremely relevant even today. Means, even though the keywords today may be “Freedom” or “Progress” rather than “Tribal Allegiance”, still there are certain paradigms, even paradigmatic “idols” preventing people from considering Islam in its true form. It is not that the information about Islam is not there and that the people cannot reach it, but that their overarching base is not “surrender to Allah and to whatever He has sent”, but rather “surrender to the ego under the banner of ‘Freedom’” (for example), something that blinds the people from seeing the reality of things. This of course, reaches the stage where people even deny the existence of Allah altogether, so as to not have to consider the (psychological) consequences of what they should do if Allah actually did send down a message to one of His Elect. Of course, in this respect they are like the child who closes his eyes when he has done something bad and his parents are in front of him, thinking that if his own eyes are closed, then his parents will not find out.
o Anyway, there is something we would like to say about the issue of the spontaneity of eloquence: We sometimes see certain Arabs (especially the older ones) who can make poetry on the spot. Give them a topic or even a word and they will make a poem about it. So what about at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an, when the need to counter the Qur’an was enormous for the idolaters? It only points to a complete and comprehensive I’jaaz being meted out on them.
o Allamah as-Suyuti (RA) has mentioned in his al-Khasaais a number of incidents that indicates towards point #2 above. When the Prophet’s ﷺ message and the Qur’an began to attract the attention of the people outside Makkah, the pagans came together to devise a plan as to what to tell the people so as to dissuade them from hearing the Qur’an, and they turned over the matter to Walid bin al-Mugheera, who was the “wise man” amongst them. They thought of saying that Muhammad ﷺ was a lunatic, a soothsayer, or a poet, but they in turn dismissed each of these possibilities, since if the people actually heard the Qur’an, while the enemies of Islam put forth these “explanations”, it would only make them more attentive towards the Qur’an, since their “explanations” would be fully dismissed by the crowds coming for pilgrimage. This was because anyone listening to the Qur’an with a good mind and knowledge would not mistake it with the ranting of a lunatic or anything else these idolaters were suggesting. At the end, they agreed to say that Muhammad ﷺ was a sorcerer whose black magic was separating family members from one another. But of course, this was a weak type of argument as well, since magic also has its rules and regulations, and those who were experts in dealing with evil spirits would know that what Muhammad ﷺ had brought was something else. Perhaps they hoped that by referring to the breaking of family ties, they could influence the people towards refusing to hear the Qur’an and the message of Islam. Again, there is weakness in here also, since the truth, when it comes in the face of falsehood, is bound to have an impact on some hearts but not others, and it may cause certain rifts within families, but such rifts do not point to the falsity of the message.
o With the “breaking of family bonds” message, note how this is a variation of the “freedom of action” message we see blaring everywhere today. At that time, they could say that “keeping family bonds” was above every other principle, even above following the truth that Allah sent. Today, the “freedom to act as one pleases” seems to be the catchphrase today, and this principle (which is really just a synonym for the inciting soul) is what may cause many people to discard Islam altogether, even if they have a feeling that it may be the truth from Allah. The seeming complexity of modern society should not fool anyone into believing that there is any big difference between the two minsdets as “mindsets only”, since in both cases “surrender unto Allah the Exalted” is simply thrown out of the window and not paid any attention.
o We see that a tremendous impact was made on the hearts of other people. The exegete (RA) mentions Nadr ibn Haarith, Unais (the brother of Abu Dharr (RAA)), As’ad Ibn Zuraarah, and Qais ibn Naseebah. Even the vilest of the enemies of Islam, such as Akhnas bin Shareeq, Abu Sufyan [before his conversion to Islam], and even Abu Jahl would creep in the darkness of the night in order to hear the recitation of the Qur’an, and they could not help but to listen to it until the dawn time (when their public reputation would have been ruined if it had been discovered that they were “entranced” by the Qur’an). But their arrogance did not allow them to convert, since as we mentioned before, they thought of the matters in terms of competition among tribes, economic loss, etc., and they did not want to lose face.
o (3) The Qur’an made many predictions concerning future events that turned out to be true. The case of the victory of the Ruum (Byzantines) over the Persians is normally brought up. Some people may say that this was a “lucky guess”, but the reason why it is brought up by us is due to the unlikeliness of it happening (if we only consider the materialistic aspect of it at that time), and because the idolaters even wagered on it, yet were humiliated when the prophecy came to pass.
o (4) The Qur’an gives a clear account of the earlier Prophets, their peoples, and their Sharias. In some cases, even the Jews and the Christians did not possess with them the information revealed in the Qur’an, so the only option left is that it was only Allah the Exalted who taught the Qur’an to the Prophet ﷺ.
o (5) Several Verses of the Qur’an disclosed what certain people had tried to keep concealed in their hearts, but they had to admit that the situation was as the Qur’an had stated, examples being what is stated in Verses 3:122 and 58:8 – the first Verse talking about the thoughts that came into the mind of two subtribes of the ‘Aws and Kahzaraj during the Battle of Uhud, and the second one where the internal thoughts of those who were holding evil consultations was revealed.
o (6) In certain Verses, the Qur’an predicted that certain people would not be able to carry out certain tasks, and it turned out that they were indeed rendered incapable of going ahead with that task. For example, the Jews boasted about being the Chosen of Allah, His friends, and even His special children. So the Qur’an challenged them to wish death for themselves, since when a person loves his friend and wishes to meet him, he will do anything to have this meeting come about. But the Qur’an also says that the Jews will never wish for it (as in Verse 62:7). If we consider the matter from a logical and materialistic point of view only, it would have been extremely easy for the Jews to refute the Qur’an by wishing death for themselves. Had they died, they would have supposedly met Allah and been with their beloved, and if not, then at least the Qur’an would have been refuted in the eyes of everyone.
o However, they were incapacitated from doing so, since they knew that there was an additional truth to the matter, which was that they were lying about the close relationship with Allah, and they were “scared to death” that if they actually wished for death on themselves, they would promptly be killed by Allah and taken to the Eternal Hellfire, and thus they kept quiet.
o So we see the amazing thing with respect to this specific point, that there was a double I’jaaz (incapacitation). One was with respect to making a Surah like the one that contained this challenge, and another one was related to the content itself, that of the challenge related to wishing for death.
o (7) The Holy Qur’an, when recited in Arabic, has a way of affecting the heart of even the casual listener, be he Muslim or non-Muslim. Sometimes, people converted to Islam simply because they happened to be passing by while the Qur’an was being recited, or the recitation had a huge impact on their future conversion. The well-known story of the conversion of ‘Umar (RAA) when he had set out to kill Muhammad ﷺ is a very notable story, and we also have the story of Jubayr bin Mut’im (RAA), who passed by while the Prophet ﷺ was reading Surah at-Tuur and said that he felt as if the punishment (as mentioned in the Chapter) would overtake him, and thus he converted on the spot.
o (8) One really unique aspect related to the heart’s acceptance of the Qur’an is that the more one reads it, the more he wishes to read it again and again. This is something unheard of among all sacred books of the world, since it is natural that a book loses its charm as one reads it multiple times.
o (9) We know of the changes and alterations that have taken place in the other sacred books of other religions, and none of the other books are free of these changes. But in the case of the Qur’an, not only are there millions of written copies available around the world, but there are also millions of people who have learnt the Qur’an by heart, which is the fulfillment of the promise of Allah in Verse 15:9, and also an indication that just as Allah is Ever Living, so will His Word live for ever beyond the interference of created beings. [I will need to ask about this last matter, since it is obvious that the Tawrah and the Injeel were also Allah’s Word, but they did not survive down to our day uncorrupted. The answer sees to be that whatever of letters and words has been changed, then it does not refer to Allah’s Word any longer, and cannot be called Tawrah or Injeel. But in that case, the original argument above is weakened.]
o (10) There is no other book that contains within it all forms of knowledge and wisdom in so short a space as does the Qur’an, since it fulfills all of man’s spiritual and practical needs.
o (11) We see that the Qur’an provided not a mere type of “dry theoretical” guidance. But it had a huge and deep impact on the history of mankind. Note that, for example, as a comparison, Napoleon’s armies had a large impact on the world, but it was not that lasting. Same goes with fascism, communism [in its pure form], and all the other “isms” coming out of European theories of government, economics, politics, etc. One may say that Christianity has had a big impact, but it had this effect long after ‘Isa (Alayhi Salaam) had been raised from this world, and after the religion he had taught had been radically changed. But in the case of Islam, only within a few decades, one could see the full effect of its teachings, not only on one city [not only Madeena, Makkah, or the Hijaaz] but across Arabia, and far beyond this area into Africa, Azerbaijan, Sindh, Afghanistan, even Spain – and we see that its impact is still living and present in most of these areas down to our day. This is something that is in fact unprecedented in the history of the world. Even if we see the case of America, its dominion over the world is not so pervasive anymore, and it may become economically [and as a result, culturally] not so relevant to the lives of the “common man” in the world in the near future.
Answers to some doubts
o Some people may say that perhaps the challenge to produce something like the Qur’an has indeed been taken up and met, but that only we have not been able to see it due to the information not having reached us. But this is a fallacious argument, since the non-Muslims have always been in greater numbers than the Muslims, and have had greater tools at their disposal for publicizing whatever they may have produced. So it is obvious that had such an attempt succeeded, the people would have known about it. The only “attempts” we know of are those of Musaylima the Liar, or of Abdullah ibn al-Muqaffa, both of whom failed spectacularly, up to the point that their own contemporaries knew they had failed. Take note that for example, in the case of Musaylima, he started his “composition” while the city of Makkah had still not been conquered, and the pagans had a fighting force with them, so no one would have been afraid of saying that the Qur’an’s challenge had been met, if that is what they truly thought. But even so, when he made up his own “Surahs” after listening to Surah al-‘Asr, he was told by one of his listeners: “You know that I know that you are lying” (i.e. lying about having received revelation just like the Prophet ﷺ).
o Another example of a more modern time is presented with the Irish novelist James Joyce, who thought that perhaps he met the challenge of the Qur’an with his ‘Finnegan’s Wake’, but it is clear in here that the book had its own detractors in the twentieth-century English literary world, let alone any comparison with the sublime character of the Qur’an. (There are many things that can be said about Joyce’s work, such as its great difficulty to read, etc., but these are not necessary at this stage.)
o One more thing I wished to add concerning this point: If someone says that this challenge has been met, then the onus is on them to bring forth what they believe has been up to the challenge. Simply saying that the challenge has been met is of no real use if it is not backed up with some sort of solid proof. What is really amazing is that [for example, in the case of an Atheist], he may say that he needs visual and sensory proof that God exists, but in the case of the Qur’an, he only makes some vague claims about its challenge having been met. Thus, where senses and the physical limitations of the Universe do not pertain to the object of his inquiry, he is asking for physical proof inside the Universe. And when there is something that does belong to the realm of miracles manifested within the observable Universe, he only brings vague claims. A very strange situation indeed.
o Now, some people take a different route, saying that the inimitability of the Qur’an does not mean that it is from Allah, as there are writers such as Shakespeare or Haafiz that have not been imitated successfully, yet their compositions are not divinely inspired. But notice that we are talking about a miracle, not only an inspiration, and a miracle is something that occurs without “like means” having been employed in bringing this wondrous thing about. In the case of these playwrights or poets, one sees that they underwent a normal period of learning and honing their skills, and their work is also uneven, some of it of a high caliber, but some of it of a more pedestrian quality. But as we know, the Prophet ﷺ was never interested in learning literature, so he was untaught and yet brought forth the Qur’an. So it is obvious that this would add a new facet to the miraculous aspect of the Qur’an, since it is simply not within the normal means of this world that someone untaught suddenly becomes an unequaled master in any art.
o Also, notice that it is not only a question of literary style, but also of the transforming power the Qur’an has on people’s hearts, such as was seen in the actions of the earliest Muslims, and even down to our time. The editor quotes Frithjof Schuon on a comment he made about the Qur’an, in that its efficacy was not only in its earthly content, or in its elucidation of concepts or richness of literary forms. But it goes well beyond this, to include richness of meanings and the ‘Divine aspect’ of it which gives rise to the spiritual efficacy of the Qur’an. And as we know, it was from this angle that the rapid expansion of Islam, along with the stability of its institutions and the fruitfulness of its doctrines, became manifest to all.
o Now, I know about the controversies surrounding Guenon and Schuon, but I do not think that the editor meant to press forward the peculiar religious beliefs of these two people and all those who follow them, which is why Schuon was introduced as a scholar of comparative religion, not a “Muslim scholar of comparative religion”.
Verse 25 – Commentary
o Verse 24 talks about the punishment of those who disbelieve, while this Verse talks about the reward for those who believe. With respect to the fruits of Paradise mentioned in this Verse, the exegesists have mentioned that these are alike to each other in shape, but different in taste. Others say that it refers to those fruits that resemble the fruits of the Earth in shape, but their taste is very different. Whatever the correct interpretation is, the point is that the believers will have a joy in Paradise they had not known about in this world, and this would also be a “renewable” joy.
o One important note is presented: Some modernists say that the fruits referred to in here are only metaphors for an intangible spiritual bliss. Now, there is no blanket prohibition for interpreting Verses of the Qur’an symbolically, and this has been the way of certain scholars, especially the scholars of the heart. But none of these claimed that I’tibaar (symbolic exegesis) can take the place of Tafseer. Yes, such interpretations are an aid towards understanding spiritual and metaphysical doctrines, but it cannot overrule the proper Tafseer. But what the modern-day “reformers” are doing is to deny the objective existence of the fruits of Paradise altogether, which is something uncalled for. Thus, we can say that there is objective existence of these fruits, even though their true nature and state may not be known to us at the present.
o Now, I will give one personal view that is hopefully pertinent to the situation, even if I have mentioned it before: Many of the modernists may have been cowed by the frequent attacks of the Christians and Agnostics poking relentless fun and their acrimonious comments against the Islamic concept of Paradise as an abode of spiritual and physical pleasures. This is exactly why there is so much angst concerning the Hooris of Paradise, and so forth, because the Christians think mostly in terms of a “mystical union with God” (some ‘spirit’ according to them) or some other similarly invalid quests, while the skeptics simply do not believe in God to begin with (so the very existence of Heaven and Hellfire are already “silly” in their estimation). So from this we must remember that Islam is to be judged based on its own rules and its own methodology, not waiting for a Christian or an Atheist to ridicule us until we back down from what Islam and its primary texts say. Besides, such non-Muslims will keep on speaking badly about Islam incessantly, regardless of the “concessions” we make, until they force us out of the Deen. We must understand that this “war” is of a different type, but it is a type of war nevertheless, and we must not slacken in this respect.
o Coming back to the main Tafseer, we see that the wives of the pious are pure internally and externally, as are all the people of Paradise, having no bodily filth nor any spiritual ailments.
o Also, as we know, the joys of Paradise are everlasting unlike those on Earth which are subject to destruction, and which will disappear once a person dies.
o The Verse also adds the condition of “good deeds”. And as we know, good deeds are a condition for receiving all these blessings of Paradise. For with Imaan alone, one will eventually be saved from the Hellfire regardless of the many evils he may have done, but only with good deeds can one escape the punishment of the Hellfire altogether.
Verses 26 and 27 [Commentary]
o As we had seen in the previous Verses, the challenge of the Qur’an was placed in front of the world. Now, some disbelievers raised an objection that is addressed in here: The objection was that if the Qur’an is of a high-level of eloquence (miraculous in fact), why are small creatures such as an ant and a gnat sometimes mentioned, is this not against the principles of dignity? However, the truth is that these creatures are brought up according to the situation, and if the situation calls for the example of an ant, a bee, or something even lower to be brought up, either for awe or for showing a decadence in the non-Muslim’s character, then use of such parables is not contemptible. After all, these sorts of objections arise only in the minds of those who blindly seek trouble, not of the believers, or those who wish to discuss and study matters soberly.
Qur’anic parables: Test and Guidance
o The Qur’an mentions that the main reason for such parables to come up is to test men. For those whose hearts are disposed to the truth, thy will receive guidance from such parables. But for those who do not wish to receive anything good, it will only become a source of sorrow, trouble, confusion, and misguidance. Again, knowledge of Islam does not automatically mean guidance towards Islam, since guidance is based solely on the Tawfeeq of Allah the Exalted [think of the case of Shaytaan, who has different levels of intellectual and experiential knowledge about the truth, but yet Allah threw him out of the Abode of Mercy].
Who is (a) Faasiq
o Now, some terminology is used: In this Verse, the Qur’an calls the disobedient al-Faasiqeen. In the Sharia’, Fisq means to go beyond the circle of obedience to Allah, and to transgress the commandments of Allah. Sometimes this may lead to disbelief, which is why the word Faasiq is many times applied to Kuffaar. The jurists have said that the Muslims who commit major sins and do not repent, or habitually commit small sins fall into the category of Faasiqeen – a counterpart to the Kaafir, but still within the bounds of Islam. Note that the difference between the two is that the Kaafir does not believe that the major sin he is committing is actually forbidden, while the Muslim acknowledges that it is a sin in his heart at least (even though he is not repenting from it.) Finally, the one who commits major sins publicly and openly without being ashamed of it is called a Faajir [The relationship among all of these terms is not explained in detail at this point of the Tafseer.]
Living by the Covenant with Allah
o The covenant that this Verse refers to is the covenant of Alust [as in Verse 7:172]. This acceptance and affirmation of Allah as the Lord by all human beings requires total obedience from the slaves. But if the people break this covenant, then how are the Prophets and Books of Allah going to benefit them?
Islamic concern about relationship to others
o We see that the severance of ties and of covenants is not only between man and his Lord, but also includes those between him and his relatives, neighbors, friends, and all humans. In fact the Sharia in its totality is the way to maintain the proper relationships [or “covenants”] which man has with himself and all existents. It is obvious that being deficient in fulfilling the contracts and proper relationships is what causes disorder in the world, and it is those people who violate that which is to be joined who are the transgressors and the losers.
Injunctions and related considerations
o (1) Verse 26 shows that generally, if there is a lesson to be learned and it can be done only by referring to dirty and lowly things, then it is permissible to allude to such things. Examples of this are found in the Qur’an, the Ahadeeth, and in the writings of the ‘Ulamaa. The habitual ideas of modesty or seriousness that we have about such things may thus be discarded in order to drive home the real object. Just as a (somewhat) related example, consider that lowly and filthy things come out of a human, but Islam will never shy away from discussing these things head-on, since Islam is not idealistic but rather realistic about the condition of human beings.
o (2) The reference to breaking the covenant with Allah shows that breaking or infringing upon a contract with a fellow person is a great sin and may impede one from doing good deeds.
o (3) As we know, the Sharia points to the Huqooq of Allah and the Huqooq of the ‘Ibaad [obligations with respect to Allah and with respect to the servants of Allah], and it is one of the most important matters of religion; sundering such obligations gives rise to disorder in the world.
o (4) The Verse says that the losers are those who go against the Divine Laws. The pointer is that the loss of the next world is the real loss, the one in this world being small and insignificant.
Commentary on Verses 28 and 29
o The previous Verses gave proofs for the existence of Allah, the truth of Prophethood, and refuting the false notions of the disbelievers. Now, these two Verses here speak about the blessings that Allah has showered on man, and also pointing out that there are those who deny and are reluctant to worship Allah even at this stage [i.e. after acknowledging these blessings.] The deeper indication is that if they do not want to consider the arguments the Qur’an puts forth, then at least let they should give thanks to the benefactor, as this is also a route for them to come to the truth.
o Verse 28 talks about the blessing particular to man, that of creating him from nothing. The second Verse (number 29) is about the blessings general to all those on Earth – the favorable conditions on the Earth and in the skies, so that life may continue on Earth. Verse 28 starts by expressing surprise that the Kuffaar are denying Allah. Of course, the pagan idolaters outwardly only denied Muhammad ﷺ, but the Qur’an equates denial of the Prophet ﷺwith denial of Allah Himself.
o Perhaps I mentioned this before, but I will reiterate it here: Some of our opponents say that this idea elevates the Prophet ﷺ to the status of God Himself. But the truth is that the Prophet ﷺ is the highest from among the Creation of Allah, but that is what he is, a Creation all the same, whom Allah in His Generosity and Mercy chose above the rest. The equating of denying Allah when the Prophet ﷺ is denied is because Allah is sending the people unequivocal proofs, which are basically in place of Allah saying: “O people, listen to this man whom I have chosen to convey my message”. Rejection of this is akin to saying: “You know what Allah, I do not care whom you send or what you want me to do; I reject this, and I will live in my own freedom and do what I want.” It is clear then, that when Allah has given us His Message through a certain person, rejecting it is actually rejecting Allah Himself. There is really no difference in this aspect, since Allah’s Will to exalt this or that person to Prophethood means that we must only submit and obey Allah, not act arrogantly and make up excuses that do not amount to much anyway.
o There is also another pointer in here, which is that the one rejecting Allah is basically thinking that Allah is incapable of sending Messengers. This then is definitely a rejection of Allah, because sending Messengers is within the realm of possibilities, yet the disbeliever is saying that Allah does not have Power over this possibility, and this is straightaway idolatry and atheism.
o Ok, now the Verse reminds all that man was once dead. If he wants to say that he existed, then this was nothing other than billions of lifeless particles wandering aimlessly, after which Allah brought them all together and gave them life.
o Next, Allah warns man that Allah will take away his life, and give it back to him a second time – that is, on the Day of Judgment, when [just as before] Allah will collect the dead and lifeless particles of every man again, and give it a new life. So we know that the first state was when man was not alive at all, then he was brought unto this world, then he will be made to die, and on the Day of Judgment he will be brought to life again. The Verse ends by telling man that his final return is to Allah, on this very same Day of Resurrection.
o The Verse then makes an important point: We know that life is a blessing, since it is through life that we can profit from all other blessings. But death is also a blessing (for the believer) since it is the door through which all the blessings of the Hereafter become accessible.
o In here, and Allah knows best, we see that the great value of the blessings are known through their opposites in many cases. We know of the value of life since we know that when we are dead every good sensation and pleasure stops. But we also see that death contains in it the key to liberation from these ephemeral blessings, and onto ever-lasting joys and high stations.
o Consider that even in the case of sleep, the lesser death, we can realize the benefits that being unaware of the world around us may provide at times. For when the person is extremely tired, he does not care about this or that piece of information, or the better food, or any other pleasure. He just needs to sleep, and at that moment, the (lesser) death is preferable for him than a thousand lives. This is just a small example to keep in mind.
o Verse 29 refers to Allah having created for man “all that the Earth contains”, and this phrase encompasses all kinds of benefits accrued to man. Then, the Verse speaks of the Creation of the skies and its division into seven skies.
o Next, we see that the Qur’an uses the word Istawa, which literally means to ‘stand upright or climb’, but it has other significations, such as ‘to turn or pay attention to something’, and ‘to take a straight and firm decision which nothing can hinder.’ Note that the first meaning that may come to our minds when the word ‘Istawa’ is mentioned is not to be attributed to Allah, since that simply does not correspond to His Majesty.
The life in ‘Barzakh’ (The period between death and resurrection)
o (1) As mentioned before, those who do not explicitly deny Allah’s Existence, yet deny the Prophets and Books (or anything else that is Dharuryy [obligatory to believe] in the religion) are still counted as having denied Allah.
o (2) An important point: Verse 28 only mentions one kind of life that is to follow one’s physical death, the life that will begin in the Hereafter. Someone might ask, then what about the life in the grave, where people will be questioned and even receive punishment or reward? This is called Barzakh [intermediate state] and it is either a supplement to this life, or a prelude to the next life. So whichever of these categories it is, it is not counted as a separate life on its own.
o (3) According to Verse 29, everything in the Universe has been created for man, and man derives some benefit from it, either directly or indirectly. Some things man uses physically for food or medicine, other things give benefit to him without him even knowing, and even poisonous, forbidden, or dangerous things may confer benefit to him in some indirect way. And most importantly, man can use everything in the Universe to teach him lessons and illuminate him about the truths of the Hereafter. Ibn ‘Ata (RA) says in advising man, that Allah has created everything in the Universe for his service, so man should devote himself to worshipping Allah. Man should not be heedless, only worrying about his sustenance, since Allah has already decreed his sustenance in proper measure, but rather he should concentrate on worshipping His Lord.
o (4) On the basis of Verse 29, some scholars have derived the rule that everything on Earth is basically allowed for use, except if there is some clear instruction in the Qur’an or the Ahadeeth forbidding its use. But other ‘Ulamaa have taken the contrary view, that the mention of things “created for man” does not make them lawful for use. For such scholars then, everything remains Haraam unless an explicit statement or a deduction from the Qur’an and the Ahadeeth can be found for their legitimization.
o Then there are other scholars who are not committed on any particular side, saying that the Verse itself does not confer any prohibition or approval, but rather that the injunctions for the legitimacy of things are of a different “order” so as to say, and are found in other locations in the Qur’an.
o (5) There is one issue that may come up, which is that this Verse shows that the Earth was made before the skies, while Verse 79:30 would seem to be saying the opposite. These two Verses can be reconciled if we consider that the Earth had already been created when the skies had come into being, yet their final shape came into existence after the creation of the skies. (This matter is in fact dealt with in more detail in another Volume of this Tafseer. There are some things I will need to ask in the future, such as concerning the extent of the “seven skies”, and whether it is correct to say that the observable Universe is the collection of “seven skies” or whether the Universe is only a small part of the “seven skies” mentioned in the Islamic texts.)
o (6) According to Verse 29, the skies are seven in number, showing that the ancient astronomers and philosophers were simply wrong in saying that their number was nine.
Commentary of Verses 30-33
o The previous Verses spoke about the blessings of Allah, and asked man to recognize them as blessings, and not to be unthankful to Allah. We see that these were the tangible blessings, and starting from Verse #30 for the next ten Verses, Allah recounts the intangible blessings bestowed upon man: How Allah bestowed the gift of knowledge to Adam (Alayhi Salaam), how the angels were made to prostrate before him, and how men were given the honor of being his sons.
o Allah knows best, but it seems that in the saying of the exegete (RA) there is also a pointer that this blessing of Allah was totally out of Allah’s own Will; there was nothing “compelling” Him to exalt Adam (AS), or to make us humans his offspring. Indeed, had Allah willed otherwise, we may have been created through the lineage of other creatures. Or Allah may not have brought us into existence at all, and kept us forever in the realm of non-existence.
o In here we also see the dishonoring that the materialist scientists make of man. And what else could be expected, since their basic paradigm is that material causation gives rise to its associated effects, and nothing can be expected of people who hold onto this belief except to say that the lowest of the low created other lowly creatures (this is obviously false, but it is mentioned just to show how the dishonoring takes place on a variety of levels.) May Allah save us from such ideas and help us learn the Deen properly.
The Creation of Adam (Alayhi Salaam)
o The three present Verses relate how Allah, after having decided to create Adam (Alayhi Salaam) and make him His deputy on the Earth, informed the angels about this; this was as a “trial”, so that they could express their opinions on the matter. The angels said that they could not understand why men, who would wreck bloodshed and havoc could be given deputy-ship, while the angels, being wholly good, were passed over for this task. In answering them, Allah first adopted the mode of authority, telling them that they had no knowledge concerning the exigencies for being Khulafaa on Earth. Secondly, there was the answer with wisdom, where Adam (Alayhi Salaam) was given knowledge, and through this his superiority over them was shown, since only man was apt for receiving the knowledge necessary for managing the affairs on Earth.
o (1) Some may ask as to why Allah chose to speak of his decision to angels. People may say that it was merely to inform them, or seek their advice, or to make them express their opinions on the matter. Below we will examine which of these answers that may come to the minds of people has weight with the scholars of Islam.
Why Allah discussed Adam’s creation with angels?
o It is obvious that one turns to advice to wise and trustworthy people when one needs perspectives regarding things one cannot himself see clearly. Or if the rights of others in an affair are equal to one’s own rights, then one turns to them as a duty. It is obvious that neither of these can possibly apply to Allah, since He alone knows everything that is knowable; also, Allah is the Creator Alone, and there is no parliamentary system in Creation. The Qur’an emphasizes this fact in Verse 21:30, in that the Creation will be asked concerning what they have done, but Allah Himself cannot be questioned.
o One of the explanations is that Allah gave the statement the form of consultation in order to show men the advisability of mutual consultation. And with the Prophet ﷺ this was the case as mentioned in the Qur’an and the Seerah (biography of the Prophet), that even though everything could have been revealed to him concerning how to run the affairs of the community, yet Allah encouraged consultation so that the Muslims may learn this mode of conduct with respect to the important decisions of the community.
o Again, though, let us remember that this in no way should be taken that Allah was asking for advice from the angels, since that would be blasphemy.
o And there is another lesson in this exposition above with respect to the Twelver arguments for Imamah and our Sunni response to them. And that is that consultation is the very antithesis of “Infallible Imaamah”, for someone who supposedly has knowledge of all that is to be [as the Twelvers claim about their Imams], cannot be said to require consultation concerning matters. It cannot even be said to be a lesson for “Muslims for the future of their lives” since at that time also, there presumably should also be an “Imaam” who will guide them in all affairs. So the weakness of the Shia claim in this respect is shown.
o Coming back to the interpretation of the Verse, there is another option hinted to in the Qur’an itself. And that is that the angels thought that they were absolutely the highest order of creatures that would ever be made. But Allah knew that humans would be superior to them in many traits, so he mentioned this in the assembly of angels so that they would disclose their thoughts. It was only then, that out of curiosity, the angels wondered how a creature so attached to evil could be given sovereignty, since they themselves were totally obedient and submissive to Allah.
o First, Allah answered them by saying that He knew what they were unaware of, implying that they were unaware of the true requirements concerning viceregency on the Earth.
o Then Allah demonstrated this truth to them in a vivid way, by giving Adam (AS) the knowledge of the names, properties, and qualities of all the animate and inanimate existents. We see from here why man was endowed with such knowledge, since angels cannot experience pain or hunger, they cannot feel exhilaration or disappointment and so on. Only Adam (AS) and his offspring were receptive to this knowledge.
o There is another thing the exegete mentions, that there is no indication that this teaching to Adam (AS) was in private. Rather, it may have been in public to all, but only Adam (Alayhi Salaam) could grasp this knowledge, not the angels. Or it may have been “instinctively” placed inside Adam (AS) without need for formal education, in the same way that a child knows how to suck the mother’s milk without being taught.
o There is another question, in that some ask that couldn’t Allah simply change the nature of the angels into that of men and send them to the Earth? This is actually an irrelevant question, since Allah creates what He wills, changes what He wills or leaves its nature unchanged, and so forth. But as a simple answer, the exegete (RA) says that in such a case, the angels would have just changed to men, and not remained angels any longer.
o Through this demonstration, the angels realized that purity and innocence were not the criteria for being a viceregent on Earth, but that it was rather knowledge of the things on Earth, the ways to use them and the consequences of their use that was a more suitable criterion. Thus, they came to know that Allah would and did indeed create a creation better than them in this aspect.
o We also learn a rule, which is that it is necessary for a ruler to know the nature and peculiarities of his subjects, for otherwise he cannot enforce justice and order.
o So we know that the angels’ expression of their opinions was only as a humble submission of their services. When the truth became clear to them, they immediately glorified Allah and acknowledged their deficiency in knowledge. The angels’ attributing full purity to Allah implies that Allah did not withhold any of the knowledge he gave to Adam (Alayhi Salaam); but rather, Allah gives knowledge to the creatures based on the specific nature and temperament of that creature.
o A question may come up: How did the angels know that men would commit evil? Did they possess knowledge of hidden things, or was it only a conjecture on their part? Most scholars say that Allah Himself informed the angels on this occasion as to how man would act, and on the basis of this their curiosity was awakened.
o Allah, in addition to showing Adam’s (AS) superiority in terms of knowledge, also replied to the angels that they did not know how chaos was related to being a Khaleefa. The suggestion is that a viceregent is needed on Earth in order to prevent disorder and chaos. Thus, what the angels thought was a shortcoming is actually a major positive point for man to be a Khaleefa on the Earth.
o We see then, that Allah created different types of beings: totally good beings [angels], totally evil beings [Satan and his progeny], those with a preponderance of evil over good [jinns], and man, whose good and evil are admixed, but who have the tools to conquer their evil and grow goodness in order to attain Allah’s Pleasure (there might be a need to explain the “totally evil” creation above; I will need to ask how to word this properly, even though some explanations have already been given for this by certain ‘Ulamaa.]
Allah is creator of the language
o (2) According to Imam al-Ash’ari, this discussion shows that Allah Himself created language (without it “evolving” among humans), and its use by different men has later on produced the variety of languages.
o (3) There are two phrases used in here that are of note. Allah said: “Tell Me” when asking the angels the names of things, and “Tell them” when ordering Adam (Alayhi Salaam) to tell the angels the names of things. This means that Adam (AS) was granted the rank of teacher, and the angels were his pupils, this showing his position over them. Another lesson is that the degree of the knowledge that the angels possess may increase or decrease. [Note that the angels were given primary knowledge about the things, not full knowledge as Adam (Alayhi Salaam) had, according to the inference the exegete is presenting.]
Man is the viceregent
o (4) These Verses tell us that a viceregent was appointed to keep order and promulgate divine laws, and from this we learn the basic principles for governance of man on Earth. Of course, as we know from many Verses, all sovereignty ultimately belongs to Allah. But Allah has sent down His viceregents for maintaining spiritual and temporal order, and they may at times also exercise authority in these spheres in order to promulgate Divine laws. The exegete (RA) ties this with Prophethood, saying that, as mentioned in many Verses of the Qur’an and the consensus of the scholars, Prophethood is a rank given directly by Allah Himself, without any consideration for one’s good deeds or personal effort, etc.
o The exegete mentions that the viceregents receive divine commands directly from Allah and promulgate them on Earth; this has been the case since the time of Prophet Adam (AS) up to Muhammad ﷺ. Note that this was not meant to be a continuous succession, nor a post separate from Prophethood, as opposed to what Twelvers say about this matter.
The Holy Prophet ﷺ was the last Caliph of Allah on Earth
o (5) Muhammad ﷺ came to the Earth as the last Khalifa, Rasuul, and Nabiyy of Allah on Earth. He has some special characteristics, such as:
o (a) The previous Prophets were sent to a specific people, and their jurisdiction was likewise limited. But Muhammad ﷺ was sent to all people, jinns, and his authority likewise extends to all members of the two species; the Qur’an points to this fact, for example, in Verse 7:158.
o (b) The “period of action” of previous Prophets was also limited, and when the time of a given Prophet was over, another period with a new Prophet as viceregent would come. But for Muhammad ﷺ, his Prophethood lasts until the end of time, since he is the last of the Prophets.
o (c) Likewise, the Sharia of earlier Prophets would remain operative and recognizable for a certain period, but after huge distortions had taken place in these Shariah, Allah would send a new Messenger with a new Sharia. But for Muhammad ﷺ, the Book revealed to him, its meanings, and the Law he was given all shall be protected until Judgment Day, and this is the purport of Verse 15:9. The same goes for the Ahadeeth, as these have also been taken up by men who will preserve it until the Judgment Day. Thus, the need for new Prophets or books does not arise.
o (d) Contrary to the case of earlier nations, those who succeeded the Last Prophet ﷺ will not be viceregents of Allah, but rather viceregents of the Prophet ﷺ. Of course, this includes both the temporal and spiritual order in the world, and as per the Hadeeth in the Saheehayn, there will be many of them.
The issue of Caliphate after the Holy Prophet ﷺ
o (e) An important point is that the Ummah as a whole has been granted immunity from error, which was previously the privilege of the Prophets (Alayhima Salaam). Thus, any decision that has been arrived through the consensus of the Ummah is deemed as a manifestation of Divine Command, and this is also why the Ijma’ of the Ummah is taken as a source of the Sharia after the Qur’an and the Ahadeeth. And as we know, there is a narration stating that a section of the Ummah will remain straight upon the truth and will prevail while they are in that state.
o (6) Due to the immunity of the Ummah in this regard, the responsibility for choosing a deputy to the Prophet ﷺ has also been given in this manner, and these deputies will then be responsible for spiritual and temporal order. The exegete (RA) mentions that it is possible for there to be one Khalifa for the whole world.
o Of course, we know that the first ones to occupy this post were the 4 Khulafaa ar-Rashiduun, and the Khilaafat order functioned properly during their time. Note that their decisions were not merely temporary judgments, but a permanent legislative value is also accorded to them, since the Prophet ﷺ himself told the Ummah that we are to follow his Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly-guided Khulafaa after him.
o After this period, rulers appeared in different regions, but none of them came to the degree of being described as the Khaleefa of the whole Ummah, but rather they were Amirs of particular regions. The situation reached the point where the Ummah would not be able to decide on only one Khaleefa, and in that time, the principle became that the man chosen by the majority of the Muslims in the land was called Ameer of that place, in accordance with what is revealed in the Qur’an in Verse 42:38 ‘And they conduct their affairs by mutual consultation’.
o It may be said that modern legislative assemblies are a form of mutual consultation, but in the modern case, such assemblies can in theory make any rule they want. But in Islam, the members of the “legislative assembly” and the Ameer are all bound by the laws of Islam. Also, there are certain specific conditions for membership in an Islamic assembly as well as for the choice of Ameer.
o The Verses which tell us of how Allah informed the angels about His intention to send a viceregent on the Earth gives us some of the fundamental principles related to the governance of man:
o a) The (absolute) sovereignty of the skies and the earth belong to Allah.
o b) The viceregent is a Prophet and Messenger of Allah who promulgates the Commandments of Allah on Earth.
o c) The chain of these viceregents ends with Muhammad ﷺ, as he is the last Prophet and Messenger
o d) Now these functions of viceregency are performed by the deputies of the Prophet ﷺ, and these are chosen by the Islamic community.
o Again, we know that the Shias may say that the exegete is “almost in the correct place, but yet clinging to not accepting true Imaamah.” The truth is though, that whenever we Sunnis tie viceregency with Prophethood as the exegete (RA) has done above, then the possibility of Imaamah falls off automatically so as to say, since there is no way that Imaamah can be equated with Prophethood or Messengership in the Shia psyche, since they are meant to be two different but parallel roles.
o An important footnote comes up: Some modernist “interpreters” have liberally said that these Verses imply that man as Khaleefa must make progress in science above all else; and by this they mean the physical sciences. One of these “Muslims” even had the temerity of translating Adam (AS) as simply ‘man’, thereby denying the very existence of Adam (Alayhi Salaam) himself.
o These distortions must be dispelled, since they are in fact disbelief. We should note that when Adam (Alayhi Salam) was taught the names of things, this did not refer only to their material qualities, but also to their essential qualities and aptitudes – that is, the more metaphysical sense of the word “essential”. This also included the knowledge of the Sharia with respect to the Halaal and Haraam. There are many great Sufis who hold that Adam (AS) was granted knowledge of the “divine names” in summary form. It may perhaps be said that all created existents reflect some divine attribute, which in turn is a manifestation of a divine name; thus, the divine names are the essential roots of all things, and one who knows the divine names also knows things in their inner natures.
o Of course, with respect to the denial of the very existence of Adam (Alayhi Salaam), it is quite clear that this rejection is based on a hyper-esoteric reading of the Qur’an coupled with the hope to fall into line with modern biology which rejects the existence of the human beings having come from one man and one woman. But the rule for them should have been that they will look into the scholarly sayings of the Muslim Ummah, and only if they see that there is no consensus on an issue, then there is an opening for them to say what the different meanings of the word ‘Adam’ have meant among the scholars with respect to this and other Verses of the Qur’an. It is obvious that such a rank is not achieved by the normal lay Muslim person who may give whatever opinions he feels like bout the Qur’an, but is rather reserved to those scholars who reach the level of proficiency in the science of Tafseer.
o Ok, so when it is abundantly clear that ‘Adam’ refers to an individual, who is also a Prophet of Allah, then there is no way of saying that his existence is not mentioned in the Qur’an, only because the biologists and scientists hold a view contrary to this, At the end, this again goes back to the fact tht the Muslims should keep in mind the Usool (fundamental rules for the formulation and deduction of Islamic rules) of Islaam when making any declaration related to Islam, so that it does not fall out of the bounds of acceptability.
o (2) With respect to the question of the viceregency of Allah, there is one doubt that must be cleared. Some people say that every man born on this Earth is to be a viceregent of Allah; this is a misreading of the Sufi metaphysical texts and poetry, tied with the “dictates” of Western Humanism. What these so-called “Modernist Muslims” have not understood is the concept of degrees and distinctions. Sufis do talk about man as viceregent, but they mean by this Al-Insaan al-Kaamil, the Universal Man. What has happened is that orientalists, with their incorrect understanding, have by themselves said that this translates to “perfect man”. In doing so, they have introduced ethical implications in the sphere of pure metaphysics. Now, in the writings of the Sufis, “man” stands for the “Total and Essential Reality of Man”, and the Universal Man par excellence is the Holy Prophet ﷺ, and this is the first degree of “manhood” to which the Awliyaa and those rulers who dealt with justice belong to.
o There are also lower degrees pertaining to the pious and the virtuous Muslims, until we come down to the sinful Muslims who can hope for salvation. In any case, if we were to assign viceregency to the normal Muslims, this would be by reflection, in the way that the Imaan of the ordinary Muslims is only a reflection of the Imaan of the Prophet ﷺ. But if we were to talk about viceregency of any man whatsoever, this would be at most potential viceregency that has to be actualized through submission to Allah and continuous spiritual effort, waiting for the grace of Allah. In any case, the highest excellence open to man right now is to be a follower of the Sunnah, the way of the Prophet ﷺ.
Commentary of Verse 34
o The previous Verses recounted how Allah blessed Adam (Alayhi Salaam) in giving him superiority over the angels in terms of knowledge. There was also a concrete manifestation of this, when the angels were told to prostrate to Adam (Alayhi Salaam). All obeyed except Iblis or Satan, who refused to do so out of his inner pride.
o Now, there may be a confusion, which is that the angels were told to prostrate, but Iblis was cursed for not prostrating, while he was a Jinn, so how does the situation get resolved? Well, the exegesist (RA) says that the angels, being the highest of creation at that time before the creation of man, were told to prostrate, so the obligation for all other created beings such as jinns and all others to do the same would be much greater.
Angels prostrate before Adam
o (1) A point that we should remember. In this story, as well as in the story of Yusuf (Alayhi Salaam) in Verse 12:100, there are incidences of creatures prostrating before other creatures. It is obvious that such a prostration could not have been an act of worship, since that would have been Shirk and forbidden by all Divine Sharias. Thus, the truth is that such acts were allowed previously as a sign of courtesy and respect [things such as prostrating, bowing down very low, or standing with one hand placed on the other as in the Takattuf of prayer.] But all of this has been forbidden by the last Shariah of Muhammad ﷺ, and we are to abide by that.
o The exegete mentions hand-shaking, the kissing of the hand, or standing up in someone’s honor as acceptable ways of greeting in our Shariah. This has two aspects to it, one that standing up for people is not wrong [I will need to ask concerning how this relates to a Hadeeth apparently forbidding this practice], and also that kissing of the hands (and perhaps feet in some cases) is not a worship-type of action that would be prohibited.
o There is another note that is taken up in here, which is that there are certain things, such as prostration to others, or the making of pictures, that are not in and of themselves acts of association (as the Qur’an in Verse 34:13 itself says that the jinn were commanded to make pictures for Sulayman (Alayhi Salaam)). But as time passed, people’s heedlessness and carelessness about the Deen led them towards Shirk when connected to these matters. Thus, since the Muhammadan Shariah is the last Shariah up to the Day of Judgment, all small “keyholes” through which Shirk might enter have been closed, even if they were allowed in previous Shariahs.
o Thus, we have prohibitions such as making pictures of living things, prostration to people, offering prayers at certain times close to sunrise and sunset have been forbidden, for a master to call his slave ‘Abd’, or a slave to call his master ‘Rabb’ are also forbidden.
o Another point: There are four bodily acts of prayer: standing upright, sitting down, bowing and prostrating one’s self. The first two of these actions are performed by people in their day-to-day lives and are not forbidden to do outside of prayer. However, the latter two are specifically acts of worship to Allah, and thus the Shariah forbade us from performing them for the sake of the creation.
o Someone might ask that since the Qur’an has clearly shown that people did prostrate themselves before humans, then where did the specific prohibition in our Sharia come from? There are Ahadeeth in this respect, such as the one where the Prophet ﷺ said that if he would have ordered anyone to prostrate to anyone else, he would have been commanded for wives to prostrate to their husbands; do not be confused, Oh readers, this establishes the total prohibition of creatures prostrating before one another even for respect and honor, not as some malicious people might promulgate, that it means wives should basically worship their husbands in Islaam.
o Anyway, it should be noted that this Hadeeth has been narrated by at least 20 Companions, and according to the book Tadreeb ar-Raawi, the minimum number of Companions needed for establishing Tawaatur is ten (do note that different scholars have different criteria, based on their Usool and the final goal that is to be attained.)
o (2) Someone might ask that why is Iblis termed as an infidel, when all he did was to give up an obligation, and this is only transgression but not infidelity as far as the Sharia is concerned. But the truth is that, as part of this leaving of the obligation behind, Iblis had told Allah that he did not care about Divine Commandments, and that he thought himself equal to Allah in the matter of legislation, rather than “merely” committing a slip in following an obligation.
o From here then, I hope that all of us Muslims learn an important lesson, which is that whenever someone believes that a legislation can be “passed”, either by his nations or in his own more private sphere, which explicitly goes against the fixed Islamic injunctions, simply because he feels like it or because he does not like the original Islamic rules, that person is basically carry out a reflection of the actions of Iblis, indirectly saying to Allah that he does not care about what Allah has revealed, and that as far as legislation is concerned, he is his own “god”. This is the thing we really have to be worried and concerned about nowadays, since it is indeed a great tribulation in our era.
o (3) It is said that Iblis had attained the rank of Ta’us al-Malaikah “The Peacock Among the Angels”, due to his high degree in science and knowledge. Some might ask, that then how did he fall from such a rank? Some ‘Ulamaa said that he still had pride and vanity within himself, and due to this, Allah took back from him all his wealth of knowledge and understanding, until he became like an ignorant fool. Others have suggested that his error was due to self-love and ambition. In ‘Ruh al-Bayaan’, the matter is resolved by saying that once the aid of Allah has been withdrawn, one cannot save himself from sins anymore, and he is only pushed into misguidance. Thus, one should not be vain about one’s learning, deeds, or Imaan, for one’s Imaan is taken into consideration for salvation in the next world only if it exists at the end of one’s accountable life.
o And this also shows that having knowledge of a topic, or knowing every single dialectical proof of the religion is absolutely not a concrete evidence that one will be a good Muslim, or even a Muslim for that matter. For as we know, Iblis, Fir’awn, and so many other creatures before and after him, were totally convinced in their minds, and entertained no mental doubts about the truth, but still failed to have the light of guidance. So whether we are knowledgeable or not, humility towards Allah is the key.
Commentary of Verses 35-36
o After the superiority of Adam (Alayhi Salaam) had been shown, and Iblis had been condemned as an infidel, Adam and Hawwa (Alayhima Salaam) were ordered to live in Paradise and enjoy its blessings, but they were also told not to eat of a particular tree. Since Iblis had enmity in his heart for man, he tricked them into eating from this tree, due to which they were told to go down and live on Earth. Their existence on Earth would not be a perpetual bliss as they had been in Paradise, but there would be enmity among the humans and a besmirching of their earthly life.
o Some scholars say that the creation of Adam (alayhi Salaam) and the angels’ prostration to him took place outside of Paradise, and he was sent there later on. However, it has also been mentioned that the other possibility has not been precluded either.
o When Adam and Hawwa (Alayhima Salaam) were sent to live in Paradise, they were allowed to eat whatever they liked, without having to work, and without having to worry about their provision falling short.
o They were commanded not to go near a certain tree, and the tree has not been mentioned specifically, even though some said it was a wheat, fig, or grape-vine tree. We should note that the popular idea of it being an apple tree arose due to an ambiguity in the Latin word “Malum”, which may mean either ‘apple’ or ‘sin, evil’. So this really has no bearing upon the Islamic conception of the matter.
o According to the Qur’an, Satan was the one who caused them to slip; thus the disobedience was not of the type which constitutes a sin, but it was rather a misunderstanding cleverly played upon by the Satan.
o Next, the exegete (RA) gives an interesting discussion about the difference between the terms Iblis and Shaytan. Iblis comes from Balas ‘to be disappointed’, in the sense of having lost all hope of receiving the Mercy of Allah. And Shaytan comes from Shatn, ‘to be far away’, that is the one who has been removed from the mercy of Allah. It is of note that Shayt means ‘the excess of anger and rage’, and thus may have some etymological connection to Shaytan as well. Actually, Iblis is the proper name, and Shaytan is the name of the genus, even though al-Shaytan always refers to Iblis. But the common noun Shaytan or Shayaateen refers to both men and jinn “devils”.
o A personal note: Some non-religious people might say that this episode of Adam, Hawwa, and Iblis is just a fairy tale that gives people false hope that they can get back to a primordial state of bliss and perfection. But we say this is not in itself a point of negativity for Islam, the reason being that this is not intrinsically impossible consideration. What Islam says is not as what those religions say, who claim that we are to achieve unity with the divine or some “Absolute Principle”. (What the non-religious people say is that there is no material evidence in front of them stating that such a thing occurred or that is scientifically unlikely, and thus they will not believe. But in Islam, the fundamental rule is that a proposition with “certainty” will always trump a proposition that is “close to certainty” whenever there is a direct contradiction between the two. This is obviously a very long discussion that goes into the depths of Islamic epistemology, but we need to mention at least this much at this stage.)
o Also, the non-religious ideologies, such as communism and even most types of modern-day nationalism, have their own eschatology, by means of which they have a vision of humanity reaching unending progress (mostly in science, etc.). Sure, it is not a return to a blissful primordial state, but it is still the image of man reaching ever higher progress, and reaching better and better states in his living. We are just talking about the vision, not how the practical implementation of this has actually worked out in the real world. And we are extremely sure that even if the current non-Islamic ideologies fade away, there will come new ideologies claiming to direct man to a blissful state in the future of the world. Thus, the existence of such a vision in Islam cannot be taken as an evidence against it – and again, it is the same consideration that we mentioned above about the levels of certainty of evidence.
o Do note, that in the case of Islam, the Paradise of all the believers in the Hereafter is more blissful and more enjoyable than the heavenly experience of Adam and Hawwa (Alayhima Salaam), since there are no prohibitions at all, the human beings who enter know the full worth of all that they have attained, and the guarantee is there of eternal delights.
o Someone might ask that how is it possible for the Shaytan to have gotten into Paradise in order to trick Adam and Hawwa (AS), even though he had been kicked out of it. The exegete mentions that it could be that the suggestion was planted in the minds of Adam and Hawwa (AS) from afar by Satan, and this is quite possible. It may also be that Satan changed his shape and was able to enter Paradise, as the text of the Qur’an in its apparent sense would suggest that Satan met them face-to-face [I need to ask about the strength of this last interpretation; that is, can it be said that Shaytan was disallowed from entering Paradise only in his original form an not in any other forms. Also, would it be possible to say that Shaytan may have met them face-to-face even from afar, or could he have tricked them to come out of Paradise so that he could plant the seeds of doubt in their minds, and other possibilities. Also note what the exegete mentions below concerning the opinions about when Shaytan was kicked out of Paradise; and Allah knows best.]
o Next, the Verse says that Shaytan brought them out from Paradise. We know that it was due to a divine command that they were expelled, but the action has been attributed to Shaytan since he was the apparent intermediary and the means for this action to have occurred. Thus, any notion of Manichean, Zoroastrian, or any other type of dualism is not to be entertained at all. And this is important to mention, since many of our opponents nowadays bring up anything and everything to try to say that we Muslims plagiarized something from the previous religions, so we must be aware of this matter.
o Now, the Verse also mentions that some of the humans will be the enemies of others, the implication being that the enmity between Satan on the one hand, and Adam and Hawwa (Alayhima Salaam) and their progeny on the other hand would continue on Earth. This is the view of those who hold that Satan was expelled from the skies only after this address from Allah, and not in the previous case. But for those who held that Iblis was already expelled beforehand, then it would mean that the children of Adam (AS) would be enemies to each other. Thus, Adam and Hawwa (Alayhima Salaam) had to undergo the punishment of being expelled out of Paradise, and another punishment of seeing their children openly against each other, which is something distressful for parents.
o Adam and Hawwa (AS) were also told that the Earth would only be a temporary dwelling place for them, and this indicates the lack of true peace of mind for them in this context.
o Allah knows best, but it seems that this is also an important lesson for all of us, in that there can never be true peace of mind on this Earth alone, simply because this was not how the human being’s existence on Earth was formed and molded by Allah the Exalted. Thus, what we know is that the human being goes through sorrow, suffering, and toil his entire life. Should this not be an indictor to his soul that the life of this world offers no real benefits at all? Should it not also point him to the fact that instead of the ephemeral world, there is a Being who is the Real Goal for all those who value themselves and who value the true “peace of mind”?
Adam and Hawwa (Alayhima Salaam) in Paradise
o (1) While allowing Adam and Hawwa (AS) to eat at pleasure and not go near the tree, Allah used the dual number, including them both in the address. But in asking them to live in Paradise, Allah addressed Adam (AS) and said “You and your wife”. From this, two rules of Fiqh can be deduced: (1) the husband is responsible for providing a dwelling-place for his wife and (2) the wife is dependent on the husband, and she must live in the dwelling the husband provides.
o (2) The Arabic word used was uskun (live), which suggests a temporary stay, not the permanent state that is envisaged with ownership of a house. This is because the right to “own” a dwelling-place in Jannah comes through faith (Imaan) and this can be discerned only after the Day of Judgment. The jurists have deduced that if a man asks someone else to live in his house, the latter does not acquire ownership of the house nor the right for a permanent stay.
o (3) When instructing them to eat, Allah used the word كُلا which is dual, indicating that the wife is not subservient to the husband for eating, but that she can eat whatever she needs and wants.
o I can imagine some people saying: “What! How can it occur to you Muslims that the wife might have to be subservient to the husband even in what she eats? Is your desire for controlling women so strong?” The truth is that this control and servitude is to Allah, not to the husband, parents, teachers, or anyone from among the Creation. Allah told us to obey so-and-so, and we obey that person, even if we may not understand the full wisdom (or none of the wisdom) behind such command. In fact, it is mostly a test, to see whether the human being really obeys Allah totally or obeys Allah only when it suits him/her. So we must be mindful of this matter.
o (4) Allah said that they could eat from wherever they liked, showing that man has the right to move freely throughout the land as per his needs or wishes.
o (5) Allah told Adam and Hawwa (AS) not to approach the tree. From this, the jurists derived an important principle of Fiqh, which is that the things likely to lead to sin or that serve as instruments to sin as just as forbidden as the sin itself. Thus, there are things that are not forbidden in and of themselves, but since there is a danger that man may commit Haraam things through them, these too have become forbidden. [Note, that there are other Verses in this connection as well, just as when Allah forbids something in the Qur’an and says ‘Do not approach it’ – since approaching certain things lets the heart drink so much of it that the sin comes forth almost automatically. May Allah give us strength to avoid sins].
The Prophets are innocent of all sins
o (6) So Adam (Alayhi Salaam) had been forbidden to eat the fruit of the tree, and had been told of the plots of Shaytaan, yet he ate the forbidden fruit anyway. This is seemingly a sin, while the Qur’an, the Ahadeeth, and rational arguments compel us to accept that Prophets are protected against all sorts of sins, major and minor [some people have said that minor sins do not fall under this protection, but this is rejected by the majority of scholars]. The reasoning is that if even Prophets and Messengers are not exempt from committing sins, then the people at large will have trust in absolutely no one, and the task of guidance (in its spiritual and practical spheres) will be practically impossible.
o But we see that the Qur’an relates certain matters which at first glance seem to signify that Prophets did commit sins. The issue is resolved when we consider that these acts have come about due to a misunderstanding, forgetfulness, an oversight or something of that nature, and never through a deliberate attempt at disobeying Allah the Exalted from the part of the Messengers. This category is akin to that of a Mujathid who has the requisite qualifications in order to deduce the rulings of the Shariah, but who commits an error in his ruling – he still receives a reward for having done his utmost effort even though the absolute result is incorrect. While we say this, we also need to remember that a Prophet can never show oversight or forgetfulness in matters directly related to the Prophetic function; they only apply in his personal affairs.
o So, the station of Prophethood is so high, that even a small amount of forgetfulness or misunderstanding is considered to be a great error, and is called in the Qur’an as a ‘sin’, with Allah showing His Displeasure at it.
o One thing to mention is that Allah showing His Displeasure at such acts is in fact due to the enormous love that Allah has for His Prophets and Messengers, in that even an extremely small slip is pointed out, because Allah wants them to be of an extremely refined position so that they reach spiritual heights not reached by any others from among the Creation. So people must keep this in mind before considering anything that may come out of their mouths in this matter.
o And there is something analogous to this (in a general sense) that applies to the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ. Of course, the Companions are not and can never get to the status of any Prophet at all, but Allah and His Messenger wished for the Companions to reach a very high spiritual status and closeness with Allah the Exalted. And this is why we see what might be considered as scolding of the Companions by Allah and His Messenger ﷺ.
o In fact, it indeed may be a type of scolding but this is the type of scolding that a teacher may give a student, or a father may give to a child. The subordinate person may have indeed done something wrong and there is no doubt about that. But it does not mean that there is an actual disowning of the student or of the child in such cases. It is only that a certain high level of commitment and obedience is expected from these personalities, and if this is not achieved, then ‘scolding’ is the way to bring them back on track.
o But note that the love is always there, and the scolding may have come from love only, because for example, while there may be many kids doing bad things, the parents will be most concerned about the bad things being done by their own children, and will use their influence in its most concentrated form to teach their own children to stay away from bad habits and so forth. (Of course, here we are talking about parents who actually care for their children and who love them, which is unfortunately becoming more and more infrequent these days.)
o Thus, the enemies of the Companions should take this pointy to heart, and not be hasty in rejoicing when Allah is teaching the Companions how to act and how not to act (in the sense of rejoicing while saying that the majority of the Companions were ‘cursed’ or ‘doomed’). Indeed, it is a favor of Allah that He teaches the Muslims at large how to act and then tells them not to act in contradiction to what He has revealed, for otherwise their deeds will be ruined. Had Allah not love the Companions and the Muslims who came after them, he would have just let their deeds be ruined and thrown them to Hellfire on the Day of Judgment without any admonition at all.
o Ok, so coming back to the situation of the Prophets, we see that their very exalted nature is what makes a very insignificant issue to sometimes be outwardly labeled as a sin, even though the reality is technically not that.
o So coming to the specific issue of Adam (AS), the interpreters and scholars have forwarded different explanations:
o (a) A Certain tree was pointed out to Adam (Alayhi Salaam) as being the forbidden one, while the purport was carried over to every single tree of the same kind. However, Adam (AS) misunderstood and thought that only that very specific tree was forbidden and not the other ones of the same kind. We see an analogous case in the Prophetic Hadeeth, where the Prophet ﷺ held gold and a piece of silk in his hands an said that these two have been made forbidden for the men of this Ummah. It is quite clear that gold and silk in general have been forbidden (for wearing), but if someone had genuinely misunderstood and sincerely thought that only the specific gold and silk that was in the Prophet’s hand ﷺ was forbidden, then this is an error that doe not constitute a sin, but rather needs clarification whenever it comes up.
o Similar was the case in here, that of a misunderstanding that was exploited by the Shaytaan when he told Adam (AS) that he was only a well-wisher and could never hope for bad things to happen to Adam (AS).
o (b) The Shaytaan may have tricked Adam (AS) in another way, by saying that the ban on eating that tree was particular only for a certain time and that after that time the ban had been lifted, even though this was not true. In here we can see the great dialectical skill of Shaytaan, in that he knows the rules, the abstract fundamentals, the derivation of rulings, and everything that is necessary, either to follow the path or to become lost. Again, we see that all guidance is by the Grace nd Mercy of Allah, and nothing else can get in the way of this.
o (c) It is also possible that when Shaytaan suggested to him that the joys of Paradise would eternally be opened up for him, Adam (Alayhi Salaam) simply forgot the earlier prohibition from Allah the Exalted; and this is supported by Verse 20:115, where it is said that Adam ‘forgot’ [Fanasiya].
o Whatever the correct position is, we know for sure that Adam (Alayhi Salaam) only committed a lapse or oversight that was not technically a ‘sin’. But only due to his high status and closeness to Allah did this small forgetfulness become called a sin. Allah knows best, but here we see another facet of Satan’s genius and knowledge. This is borne out because Satan indicated that by eating this fruit, Adam (Alayhi Salaam) would attain Eternal Paradise. This is not a total lie either, since Adam (Alayhi Salaam) ate the fruit and is one of the dwellers of Eternal Paradise, but Satan did not tell him that there would be difficulties along the way, and that the Eternal Paradise he ‘promised’ Adam (AS) was actually a return to Paradise after the difficulties of the world had passed, nor an eternal stay in Paradise without any obstacles whatsoever. So this is one of ways that Satan set up a beguiling plan, and Allah knows best.
Verses 37-39 [Commentary]
Adam’s prayer to Allah
o We know then that Adam (Alayhi Salaam) was seduced into committing a sin by Satan, and was therefore told to leave Paradise and go down to Earth. Now, the thing is that Adam (Alayhi Salaam) had never experienced the displeasure of Allah, nor had he been reproached by Allah. And Adam (AS) could not bear this terrible situation and his first instinct was to beg for pardon; but not knowing what to say, he did not wish to bring even more displeasure of Allah upon himself. On the other hand, his position as a Prophet of Allah meant that he knew about Allah’s Majesty in a way that other people simply cannot imagine; so these ‘contradictory’ situations left him unable to say anything.
o And now we learn of Allah’s Mercy, since He very well knew that Adam (AS) felt true remorse, and He forgave Adam’s (AS) lapse, and taught him words of a prayer for pardon and repentance.
o So Adam (AS) was pardoned, but there was also a lot of Divine Wisdom in sending Adam (AS) down to Earth even after the forgiveness: To start the progeny of mankind, to give mankind the injunctions of the Shariah and their choice to follow it or leave it, instituting the viceregency among them, and promulgating the Shariah so that mankind may attain a position that even angels could not reach; and all of this had been announced by Allah in Verse 2:30 even before the Creation of Adam (Alayhi Salaam).
Descension of Adam was not a punishment
o From here we learn that in the first case, the command to go down to Earth was in the mode of authority, as a punishment. But after Allah’s pardon, this command was not lifted, but rather it changed to the mode of wisdom, and here it was where the declaration of guidance and the Shariah was mentioned, whereas before the enmity amongst men was highlighted. Allah also said that those who will follow the guidance would have no sorrows or anxiety.
o The Qur’an uses the word Talaqqa in describing how Adam (AS) received the words of repentance from Allah, indicating that it was accepted and welcomed eagerly by him.
o Regarding the exact phrase that Adam (Alayhi Salaam) learned, the most well-known and accepted opinion is that these words are the ones found in Verse 7:23 (Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, surely we are of the lost!).
o Now, the ‘Tauba’ of Adam (AS) was accepted, and the exegete says that ‘Tauba’ means return, and it has more than the merely emotional connotation of the word ‘repentance’ in English. When ‘Tauba’ is used with reference to a person who has sinned this means that: (1) the person feels genuine remorse and regret of the sin after acknowledging the sin as such (2) gives up the sin altogether and (3) resolves never to commit the sin again. If any of these elements are missing then the tauba is simply not there and is unacceptable. So much for those of us who see or do something bad which veers into the extremely evil, then we make so-called ‘tauba’ of this extremely evil thing, while continuing to engage in the bad action all the same. In that case, the ‘tauba’ is not in an acceptable form in order for it to be considered for forgiveness. Sure, we know that Allah is Oft-Forgiving, and that He may forgive some sins even if people do not make tauba, but we do not understand why any person would put all of his trust in Allah forgiving him even though he is “rubbing his nose” in front of Allah by continuing to do whatever he feels like.
o Now, we see that the word ‘Tauba’ is used sometimes for Allah as well, and in the case under consideration, it means that Allah again turned to Adam (AS) with His Grace and Mercy, and accepted Adam’s (AS) tauba.
Injunctions and Related Considerations
o (1) Many of the scholars and Sufis have said that if someone commits a sin, he must come back to Allah just as his first parents did, by feeling true remorse for the sin, make up his mind to never again indulge in the sin again, and also pray to Allah so that he may be pardoned, using the same words of Verse 7:23, or those of other Prophets such as Musa (AS) (as in Verse 28:16) or Yunus (AS) (as in Verse 21:87).
o (2) The Qur’an has used the dual number both for indicating the slip of Adam and Hawwa (AS) and their being ordered to go down to the Earth. But in the case of Tauba, only Adam (AS) is mentioned.
o One possible explanation is that Allah wishes for women to be kept hidden from the prying eyes and thoughts of evil-minded people, so He did not mention her when speaking of divine wrath and sin. But he did mention Hawwa (AS) when it came to the issue of the prayer that was taught in order for both of them to be forgiven, so as to negate any thoughts that Hawwa (AS) was not pardoned or that she did not seek ‘tauba’. Another explanation is that since the woman is inclusive to man in most situations, there was no need to imply her presence in every single situation.
o Now, one thing we have to say regarding the prying eyes mentioned by the exegete. Some people might think of this line of thinking as being a small matter blown out of proportion by us Muslims, but the truth is that the evil thoughts of the menfolk are a reality; after all, Shaytan tries to get man to sin whichever way possible, and the male gender has nothing weaker in him that what he may sometimes think about women. The issue that we are getting at is that if Hawwa (AS) was mentioned in terms of sin, the minds of some would have veered off towards the glorification of sin, the glorification of eroticism, and other terrible ideas that do make their way into the minds of certain people who do not have self-restraint. Allah knows best, but this lack of mention may also be related to precluding certain other evil actions such as jealousy, backbiting, and other similar ills that afflict many people. This is what we understand concerning the reason given by the exegete (RA) for this omission of Hawwa’s (AS) name in this case.
o (3) One issue mentioned above as well is that the word ‘Taubah’ signifies much more than what the English term ‘repentance’ refers to, and likewise with Taaib and Tawwaab. Al-Qurtubi (RA) says that Tawwaab has been used with reference to man as well as with Allah. As an example, the Qur’an uses the word Tawwaab with reference to man in Verse 2:222 and with reference to Allah in Verse 2:37. For man, it refers to one who turns away from disobedience and sin, and returns to obedience, while with respect to Allah it signifies the one who accepts repentance, and turns to man with His Mercy and Grace. There is also the word Taaib (the one who returns), but it is not permissible to use this specific word with reference to Allah, since they have not been used as such in the Islamic primary texts. And our position is that any quality or word, etc., not specifically used in the primary texts to describe Allah is disallowed for us to use, even if the lexical terms (between this other word and the one used for Allah) seem related, and even if one of these supposed ‘names’ seems to be derived almost organically from a certain phrase in the Qur’an.
o For example, with reference to another Verse, Allah says that He deceives the hypocrites [Wa Huwa Khaadi’uhum]. But in spite of this, we cannot say that one of Allah’s names in ‘Al-Khaadi’’ (the Deceiver), since this is not something that is declared in the text of the Qur’an or in the Ahadeeth.
o And as a further point, we really are shocked by those who insist very precisely on people not performing Bid’ah in their religious rituals (not that this insistence on innovations is always wrong), yet they sometimes veer off into saying that a ‘body’ is not something that can be precluded for Allah. Subhanallah! Is there a bigger abominable Bid’ah than saying that Allah is characterized by something that is only from the qualities of the delimited existents? Allah is our helper.
o (4) Verse 37 also shows that only Allah forgives sins, and that the Jews, Christians and even some ignorant Muslims who believe that a priest , saint, murshid, etc., can forgive sins are totally in error. And from what we know, it seems that this belief comes from the Bible and from Christian belief, where they hold that grace is conferred ‘automatically’ by the performance of certain acts or rituals, and there is also in the Bible a passage where Jesus (AS) is alleged to have given his apostles freedom to bless and to damn whoever they wanted.
The obedient are freed of worries
o (5) Verse 38 promises two good rewards for those who follow divine guidance – they will have no fear, and they will not grieve. Fear is an anxiety that someone feels in apprehending some trouble or pain in the future, while grief is a sorrow arising from the loss of something valuable or the failure to attain something desired. But there is a subtle distinction pointed out by the Qur’an, which is that for fear, the literal translation is ‘no fear upon them’, while for grief, the Qur’an employs a verb and puts it before the pronoun as the subject, the literal translation of the phrase being: ‘they shall not grieve’. The implication in here is that only the perfected men of Allah, the Awliyaa of Allah, can be free from every single sense of loss; but everyone else, whether the richest or the poorest person, feels some grief at the frustration of not being able to achieve their desired wishes. The Men of Allah though, have submitted their will to the Will of Allah, have totally extinguished their egos, and thus they will not feel grief at any loss nor huge joy at any positive gain they may receive.
o The Qur’an mentions in Verse 35:34 that certain dwellers of Paradise will thank Allah for having removed their grief, which means that grief is definitely there even for certain Muslims who have not reached a very high spiritual level.
o Some personal notes: First, see the Mercy and Grace of Allah, that He lets people into Jannah even if they have not effaced their selfish desires, even if they still have certain bad internal characteristics when they die. Allah knows best, but this could be something like the Hadeeth where Allah says to the dwellers of Paradise that He has forgiven them their sins and is not displeased with them. Of course, this needs a scholarly commentary as to how it relates to this issue, if at all, but the general point concerning the Grace and Mercy of Allah for the believing yet erring servant is well-known and well-established from our previous discussions.
o Another issue is that we should again consider the difference between the Islamic effacing of one’s desires versus what one finds in the non-Muslim religions. And this is very important, since other religions firstly consider that only those who efface their egoistical desires can ever reach salvation and secondly, they think that this effacing of the ‘personal Will into the Divine Will’ is a literal merging of the human into the Divine. But this is obviously wrong, since Allah’s Will is Eternal, unlike the Creation, and is not circumscribed by the delimited dimensions.
o When we say that the person’s will becomes effaced in Allah’s Will, this is not Hulool (incarnation) or something similar to that, but rather it means that, through the Grace and Mercy of Allah, the person does not consider whether he is being given something or being withheld from it, but he rather sees giving and withholding as gifts from Allah the Exalted and manifestations of His Will– thus, the slave sees only the Giver and the Withholder, Allah, and is internally at peace towards whatever comes his way.
o Also, let us remember that the fear and grief of the Awliyaa of Allah is with respect to worldly matters. But with regards to the fear of Allah and the sense of awe in front of Allah, the fear of the Awliyaa is way ahead that of the normal people. Thus, there are many reports of the Prophet ﷺ being in a state of deep thought and apparently worried; this was definitely not due to any worldly matter, but rather because the Prophet ﷺ was worried about his Ummah and in a state of awe before Allah.
o Also, the Verse under discussion does not preclude the instinctive and normal fear that people feel when something that is dreadful comes in front of one, as what the Qur’an relates about Musa (AS) when his stick turned into a snake (the book says dragon, I assume it is a mistake.)
o We can see that this was an instinctive fear manifested in the earliest period of Prophethood, which dissipated as soon as Allah gave Musa (AS) the command to not fear. And this matter may be explained in another way, in that Musa (AS) felt that an extraordinary event like this might lead his people (the Israelites) into misguidance, and thus the fear was of the next world, not of this world.
Verses 40-42 [Commentary]
o A summary of the previous 39 Verses is provided, and then it is said that there were those disbelievers like the Makkan pagans who were Ummiyyun (illiterate), who did not possess any religious knowledge. Then there were the Ahl ul Kitaab, the Jews and the Christians, who followed the Torah and/or the Injeel, and who had lots of reputation in matters of religion, so that their following of the Prophet ﷺ would have theoretically led to many more being guided to the true path.
o One interesting thing mentioned in here is that the Christians believed that Musa (AS), in spite of being a Prophet, was not protected against sins. But before anyone comments on this negatively, the truth is exactly as the exegete has stated, since the current Bible in our hands shows the Prophets of Allah committing all sorts of terrible sins. Like in the case of Musa (Alayhi Salaam), it says that he deliberately killed a man, not out of a mistake or a slip, but after a calculation regarding the matter, so this is a big difference from what Islam says. And also there is a passage in the Bible, where I believe that Musa (AS) is shown openly disobeying Allah concerning the circumcision of his son, until he becomes afraid that God will destroy him, and only then he goes ahead with the rite… all of these open sins and disobediences are unimaginable to attribute to a Prophet in normative Sunni theology.
o We know that the Jews predominated in Madinah and its surroundings, and this Surah al-Baqarah is Madinite. So for the next 84 Verses (from #40 to #123), the Qur’an addresses the Ahl ul Kitaab in a friendly and persuasive tone, recounting the different types of blessings and forgiveness they have received from Allah, and inviting them to believe in the Prophet ﷺ. The first seven Verses in this sequence are brief, after which comes a long address to them.
o Now, the Qur’an uses the phrase ‘Children of Isra’il’ when addressing the Jews, and Isra’il is a Hebrew word meaning ‘the servant of Allah’, and it is also a second name for Ya’qoub (AS).
o A number of ‘Ulamaa have remarked that he is the only Prophet aside from Muhammad ﷺ to have more than one name. And the term ‘Children of Isra’il’ is used in the Qur’an so that the Jews remember that they are the sons of the servant of Allah, and that they should, in like manner, be fully obedient to Allah the Exalted.
o In Verse 40, Allah asks the Jews to fulfill the covenant they had taken with Allah, and this is the Covenant mntioned in Verse 5:12. This Verse mentions alms and prayer, but also crucially mentions following all Prophets, and this includes Muhammad ﷺas well.
o With regards to Allah fulfilling His covenant, it is that He will forgive the sins and admit to Jannah all those who fulfill their side of the pact. In Verse 41 we learn that it is obligatory for them to believe in the Holy Qur’an, in spite of the diffuclties that speaking the truth would have in terms of the leaders of the Jews retaining their adherents or their income, since fear is for Allah alone.
o There is one footnote, saying that the Qur’an does indeed confirm wht is in the Torah and the Injeel. If someone asks that well, the Injeel (or the Bible of today), says that Jesus is God, and so on and on, we say that this is an interpolation and fabrication, and these changes are not counted as Torah or Injeel. So there is no issue of the Qur’an confirming these interpolations.
Injunctions and related considerations
o (1) Al-Qurtubi (RA) remarks that when Allah asked the Jews to obey and worship Him, He reminds them of the bounties He has showered on them. But this is missing in the case of the Muslim Ummah. In fact, this shows the superiority of this Ummah, since the Muslims begin by knowing and recognizing Allah and then move on to recognize His Bounties, while other nations started by accepting the bounties and only through that they recognized Allah. Thus, this Ummah has a direct relationship with Allah that was missing in other peoples.
o Verse 40 shows the obligations of keeping one’s promises and fulfilling the agreements one has entered into. And this is explicitly stated in Verse 5:1, besides the Hadeeth where it is said that every breaker of pacts would be humiliated by having a flag raised beside him and his name called aloud in front of everyone, and then thrown to Hellfire.
o Verse 41 mentions the prohibition to be the ‘first’ to disbelieve. But we know tht disbelieving is the worst of sins, whether one is the first or the last. However, this has been mentioned thus in this Verse since the one who leads others towards sin will bear his own sin plus the sin of all others who learned this sin from him; and likewise, the one who leads another to good is obtaining the same reward as the one who performs it.
o Some personal notes to consider: Allah knows best, but the reason why the ‘first to disbelieve’ is mentioned in here is due to the fact that the Jews were seen as people of knowledge with respect to the Scriptures. However, at times some of their leaders would openly say that the pagan religion was better than Islam, and this is a form of using their privileged position to lie about the truth. And before any opponents of Islam try to make an issue out of this, we know from the present Bible in our hands that the Israelite people lied time and again about their Prophets, refused to believe in them, tried to kill them, killed some of them, and so on and so forth. So from the point of view of the Bible itself, there is nothing that the Muslims are claiming that is out of the ordinary character of many of the Jewish leaders and rabbis. This is also not an anti-semitic rant, this is basically what the Bible, even the Old Testament itself, says about the Jewish laity, so it cannot be said that the Muslims are simply making up stories out of thin ain in order to vilify the Jews.
o Yes, we understand that there will be those more secular minded people who say that the Jews simply were not convinced by the evidences of Muhammad’s ﷺ Prophethood and they could not believe in what they did not have faith in. We say that the evidence itself should be examined, and if it is shown to be correct, then the Jews (or anyone else) who rejects it then deserves the appropriate characterization. But taking things from a secular-only perspective is incorrect, since this secular perspective tends towards agnosticism, and we cannot start from a position where the Jewish people are reduced to a mere ethnicity; this is simply not a valid starting point.
o From the exegesis we also understand the huge status of the Companions, since thanks to their efforts in erudition, warfare, etc., they led hundreds of millions to Islam and to a correct understanding and performance of the Islamic religion. This is something that would outweigh any evil deeds they may have commited many times over, and this is something that the enemies of the Companions should think deeply about, since it is not a small issue.
o Some people might ask, that is this not just as the Christians say about “original sin”. We say that no, it is not the same. In the Muslim case, there is effective teaching of the good or bad deed in order for the sin to be accumulated on the original sinner, and this is not a sin transmitted in a “mysterious manner”. Secondly, the biggest evil that “original sin” brought to the world is that it disallowed mankind from acquiring a type of primordial unity he had with God. But the Muslim says that the initial supposition on ‘primordial unity with God’ is problematic and invalid, and thus from this angel we would know tht ‘original sin’ is not a proper tern to use in this context.
o (4) Verse 41 teaches us that it is absolutely forbidden in each and every circumstance to take money in order to falsely interpret the Book of Allah.
o (5) But there is a related question, which is whether it is allowed to take wages for teaching the Qur’an. The 3 Imams of Fiqh (Ash-Shaafi’i, Ibn Hanbal, and Maalik (RA)) considered it to be allowed, while Abu Haneefa and other jurists declared it to be impermissible, for the Prophet ﷺ forbade one to make a livelihood from the Qur’an.
o But we see tht the situation of the Ummah has changed dramatically since then, especially since the Baytul Maal [sort of a public exchequer of the Islamic state] has fallen into neglect and basically disappeared, the people who know Qur’an and teach it need something to support them. And the reason for this is that teaching the Qur’an is a full-time job, and it is not good to interrupy this crucial work of transmission of the Qur’an to go out and learn another expertise in order to survive. This is why many of the later Hanafi jurists have said that in view of the situation, it is permissible to accept wages for teaching the Qur’an. Yet, other Fuqahaa have extended this permissibility to include leading prayers, calling the Adhaan, teaching Ahadeeth and Fiqh, since these activities are related to the transmission of the Qur’an and are extremely crucial in keeping the light of Islm alive among humanity.
o (6) Now, an issue that may be controversial with certain people is brought up. The exegete (RA) says that this permissibility of accepting wages for the Qur’an is restricted to the situation we are living in today, where the Qur’an is attacked from all sids, an one of the ways to counter this is to have full-time, paid teachers who will teach the Qur’an to children, etc. However, this permission does not carry over to reciting over the graves of dead Muslims in order to give them the reward of this recitation. What the exegete (RA) mentions is that Allaamah Shami (RA) showed a great number of references from the Ahadeeth in order to demonstrate thqt thi latter practice had not been done by the early generation of Muslims, and as such is a reprehensible innovation.
o (7) Verse 42 clearly shows that it is forbidden to mix truth with falsehood in such a way that the addressee cannot tell one from the other, and that it is also forbidden to conceal the truth due to fear or greed.
o There is a long story in this context whichis mentioned in the Tafseer and which I will reproduce here in parts: The Umayyad Caliph Ibn Abdul-Malik wanted to meet with someone who had lived with a Companion of the Prophet ﷺ, and this person happened to be Abu Hazim. First, the Caliph showed displeasure that Abu Hazim had not met him before, but Abu Hazim gave a reply that showed the Caliph was wrong. After that, came an interchange from which many pearls of wisdom can be discerned: First, the one who loves the world has made this world flourish and his Hereafter is a desert, so he does not like to die since he would go from a flourishing city to a desolate desert.
o Second, the obedient man to Allah on the Day of Judgment is like the one who returns from a travel to his loved ones, while the sinner is like the runaway slave after he has been dragged back to his master. Third, if we want to know how Allah will deal with us, we should assess our deeds in light of the Qur’an, and relevant Verses in this regard are Verses 82:13-14 and Verse 7:56.
o Other advices are: The most honorable among humans are those who are mindful of their fellow humans, and possess the right type of understanding to discern the truth. The best among good deeds is to fulfill the obligations laid down by Allah while staying away from the prohibitions. The prayer to be most likely accepted by Allah is the prayer of a man for another who has done him some good. The best type of charity is to give as much as possible even when one is himself in need, without trying to make the benefactor feel grateful and without hurting him by putting him off. The best type of speech is to speak the truth unreservedly before the one who may harm you or from whom you expect a favor. The wisest man is the one whose actions are governed by the obedience of Allah and who invites others to this as well. The most stupid of people is he who helps another in some injustice, since this is a selling of his own faith for serving the (wordly) interests of that other person.
o Then, the Caliph asked a very straight-forward question, that what does Abu Hazim think of him. Abu Hazim tried to excuse himself from answering this question, but after insistence from the Caliph, he mentioned that these Caliphs had established their rule forcefully, against the will of the people, after killing hundreds of men. Now that they are dead, he (i.e. Abu Hazim) wishes he could know what they are saying about themselves and what people are saying about them. When he was rebuked for speaking like this by one of the courtiers, Abu Hazim said that he is only following his obligation as per the Qur’an (Verse 3:187) to speak the truth and not to hide it.
o So the Caliph did not reprimand Abu Hazim but instead wanted to know how they should reform themselves, the answer being that they should give up pride, develop a sense of togetherness with the common people, and give them their just due.
o When the Caliph asked Abu Hazim to live with them (that is, to live in the royal court), he sought Allah’s Protection from it, since he was afraid that the grandeur and wealth of the court might seduce him, and make him punishable in front of Allah.
o So the Caliph asked if anything could be done for him, and whether he needed anything. Abu Hazim said that he needed help to save himself from Hellfire and to enter Paradise (but obviously this is not something that is in any person’s power, as the Caliph replied) so Abu Hazim said that he did not need anything from the Caliph.
o The Caliph asked Abu Hazim to pray for him and he prayed for his well-being in both worlds if Allah approves of him; and if Allah does not approve of him at present, that he may be dragged towards the performance of good deeds [this is a very witty and yet great Dua’, where we see that the position of the people maters only insofar as Allah’s Will is being carried out. If it is not being carried out, no matter how high we are in this world, it is better that we are shamefully dragged towards the correct deeds, rather than suffer the ignominy in the Hereafter.]
o Abu Hazim’s special advice was that fear and reverence of Allah should be there in the Caliph’s heart such that Allah never finds him in the place He has forbidden, or absent from the place He has commanded him to be present at.
o Later on, the Caliph sent Abu Hazim one hundred gold dinars, but Abu Hazim returned it, saying that if this was meant to be wages for his advice, then blood and pork are cleaner than this money in his estimation. And if it is meant to be his ‘right’ from the Baytul-Maal, then he can only accept it if all the other ‘Ulamaa have received the same, for otherwise he cannot accept the money.
o This long story has one moral directly connected to our consideration of this Verse, which is that accepting wages for giving what is after all sincere and necessary advice is not acceptable.
Verses 43-46 (Commentary)
o The first three Verses in the sequence under discussion were concerned with ‘Aqeedah matters. Now, these 4 Verses are concerned with the practical, ritualistic side of religion, so that the Jews may enter the fold of Islam.
o To begin with, it was usually the love of money and power that made it extremely difficult for the Israelites, and particularly their scholars, to accept Islam. And this could only be cured with ‘Sabr’ and ‘Salah’ (patience and prayer) as noted in this Verse.
o Now, one important point the exegete (RA) makes: the English word ‘patience’ is actually a weak translation for ‘Sabr’, since ‘Sabr’ has three connotations: (1) bearing pain and misfortune patiently, (2) restraining one’s self from sin and (3) being steadfast in obeying Allah.
o Ok, so we need to know that patience (i.e. ‘Sabr’) in this wide sense is the perfect remedy for the love of money. Money is normally sought to satisfy one’s appetites and is not an end in itself (it is not mentioned in the exegesis, and Allah knows best, but even those who hoard money do it to satisfy some inner appetite of theirs, they do not need to keep all the money they have.)
o So if a man resolves not to follow his appetites (i.e. his Shahwa) as if these Shahawaat were his ‘gods’, then he will be happy and at peace with little money, and he will not even know of the distinction between loss and gain [of course, this is an extremely advanced stage of spiritual achievement, but this is what ‘Sabr’ should eventually lead to if followed scrupulously.]
o And in the same way, Salah is the remedy for ambition and the love of power. If someone asks why this is so, that is because Salah is the exercise of utter humility and debasement of one’s self in front of Allah the Exalted. If one performs it correctly, then he will taste the beauty of proper servitude and all pretentions of worldly power will come crashing down in front of his eyes.
o And the exegete then says, that since the love of money and power are the bases from which all spiritual disorder in man originates, then bringing them under control through ‘Sabr’ and ‘Salah’ will make one accept Islam (outwardly and inwardly) and will make him steadfast in faith.
o We are sure there are people who will say that this itself is an arrogant position, how can we say that there is only one religion that gives its practitioners the full feeling of servitude, how can we say that other ways of life do not have aspects of true patience and prayer?
o The answer to this question is that other religions still hold on either to the possibility of unity among all the creatures of the Universe, or else say that this unity has already been achieved. Thus, they are saying that there is ontological homogeneity among all existents. And if one takes this as his ideological starting point, it will be very difficult for him to humble himself before His Creator, since to begin with, he believes that the ‘Creator’ is himself or something like himself, so what is the point of him humbling himself like this? This is the main problem we see with other religions either one way or the other as connected to the issue of patience and true worship.
o One more point I wish to make, and which I hope is correct Insha Allah, is that both the love of money and power are directly connected with the love of this world, and of thinking that the world is eternal, and also childishly thinking that one will remain in eternity along with the supposedly eternal world. This is why money is taken so seriously by its lovers: They think that money will keep them alive forever, while this is a totally false assumption from so many angles. As we know, this was never true in the past, and it is still not true today. There is no way that anyone will literally live forever in this world, even if they were to fund a program to ‘guarantee an eternal span of life’ (or at least ever-increasing spans of life ultimately reaching the limit of infinity.)
o That was about money, and the same goes with power. Certain people think (either consciously or subconsciously) that if they become extremely powerful, then they can basically command death to stay away from them, or they feel that they can tell their subordinates to ‘throttle’ death when it comes to take them. Like the case with money, they think that they can give the command for an institute to be set up that will guarantee their eternal life. [One oft-observed corollary to all of this, and which we see a lot off in all times of human existence, is that the person with a lot of power also has loads of money, and vice-versa. So in a curious way, the two seem to feed off of each other.]
o Now, what happens is that the very first and last misconception this person has is that he thinks that only material causes give rise to their effects (we know this is being mentioned almost everywhere in our writings, but this is the product of a very basic and fundamental truth of Islam that we have to elucidate to the best of our abilities.) Had this person known or understood that it is all from Allah alone, he would know that he is brought into existence from non-existence to existence at every moment of his ‘life’, and that it is only a ‘matter of time’ before Allah does not renew his life.
o Thus, what an irony, the powerful man seeks to stop death from taking him in its claws, while he is dying every instant and does not even recognize it. May Allah give us correct understanding in this and all important matters of Islam.
o So anyway, we also see the huge connection between ‘power and money’ and ‘outright, full-blown atheism’. That is because when people have power and money, they falsely think themselves self-sufficient (while in fact they are always in need of other people and things, but this is an irony to be discussed elsewhere.) So when this happens, they think that they have no need for anyone, and particularly not from Allah, who is exalted above having material delimitations, but who for the haughty disbeliever simply does not exist.
o So we must understand the proliferation of modern-day Atheism in this light, in that people’s situation has improved ever so slightly, and then they think that they have reached the apex of all human achievements, and that there is no need for God in their lives.
o And again, another irony is that the modern technologically advanced societies see that people are still dying in their countries (albeit later, but they are still dying), and due to some strange reason they think this is a proof that life itself can be made eternal, and that therefore Allah does not exist. It is a very convoluted way of thinking, and may Allah always save us from such invalid and faith-destroying thoughts.
o A point mentioned by the exegete is that ‘Sabr’ [in its main ‘embodiments’] requires only the restraining or giving up of excessive appetites and desires, while Salah requires not only this, but also the performance of certain actions at least 5 times during the day. In Salah then, there is an element of renunciation of perfectly lawful and even necessary human activities, such as walking, talking, eating, and drinking. Each time for prayer is obviously not very long in and of itself, but the discipline that one needs in order to pray on time every time, every day, is the main point of this matter as far as I understand it.
o One point that we made about Salah before, but which we think is important to reiterate is that there are people who look at the Muslim prayer and exclaim that ‘what are these strange people doing, prostrating themselves on the ground’. Some of the more hardened opponents of Islam even compare us to animals while commenting on what they think of Islam and the Salah.
o But in fact, the debasement is on them: The whole matter comes back to subservience to Allah versus thinking that human beings are the total sovereigns and creators of this world. And this is the expected wrong supposition that would issue from them in such a case, since the one who thinks that all existents are ontologically homogeneous and that everything is basically self-created, will never consider it proper to bow down to any thing or any Being. It is by understanding that this is the issue with a good number of non-Muslims that we can begin to discuss about the root issue, the belief in atheism (whether of the ‘solid’ or ‘strong’ variety or the ‘weak’ or ‘practical-only’ types) and then, by Allah’s Mercy, perhaps many will enter the fold of Islam without us having to argue on these secondary topics [which are, by the way, formulated in an aggressive language in order to elicit a certain response. But we must be wise in this regard, and not play only to the objector, but rather consider the larger audience in general.]
o Next, we see that whenever a person decides to give up his desires, the instinctive urge loses its intensity over a few days, and this shows that patience is not so difficult (at least not with respect to the objects of desire – then again, this is relative to what will be discussed next.) But for Salaah, it is not only a matter of giving up desires, but also of persevering in the performance of exact actions multiple times a day without any interruptions or vacations. So an objector may ask, how can it be said that Islam has been made easy to accept, when the required remedies (particularly the Salaah) are difficult to apply? How can this restriction be overcome? The truth is that the Qur’an itself says that performing Salaah is exacting, but the exception is made for those who are humble in heart.
o In order to solve this supposed problem, we must remember that the human beings’ heart loves to roam about in the freedom of thoughts and fancy. This, while all the organs of man are subservient to the heart, meaning that they also crave for this freedom. But Salaah demands the renunciation of such freedom and its concomitants (such as eating, talking, walking, etc.) and thus, becomes difficult on the heart and the limbs. Thus, Salaah is burdensome since it is restfulness for the heart, while the human being likes movement and unrestricted motion. This is why Khushu’ in Salaah is important – Khushu’ being the ‘restfulness of the heart’.
o And of course, it is this same general love for unrestricted freedom and ‘notional movement’ which keeps people away from Islam altogether, since they crave freedom and liberality, and their hearts do not like rules, restrictions, and obedience.
o So, now we may ask as to how ‘restfulness of the heart’ may be attained. This is because most people know from their own experiences that deliberately trying to empty one’s mind of all excess thoughts rarely succeeds, and the heart will only strike back at this deliberate attempt to calm it totally. But rather, the person should focus on one thought, and really stress himself on that, so that his Salaah (and subsequently all other parts of his life) will be in order, peace, and tranquility. And this thought is to remember that he will meet his Lord, and that he will return to Him, and this will be for the purpose of receiving his reward for obedience, and the account of his deeds, respectively. Thus, hope and fear are inculcated into the servants’ heart, and this is the best way of achieve constancy in good deeds.
o The footnote mentions that this is as opposed to Western-based “remixes” of yoga and transcendental meditation, systems of concentration that cannot bring about any effect except addition of angst and worry to the minds. And besides, we cannot imagine that these ultimately Dharmic-based systems could possibly work to their intended effect, since their base assumption is towards an alleged ‘union with the Divine’, while this is a rejected supposition.
o Next, we must understand that the command for prayer is the technical establishment of prayer [Iqaamati as-Salaah], not just mere concentration. The exegete (RA) focuses on the word Iqaamah, which has the signification of ‘making a thing straight, or keeping it firmly in its place.’, and in connection with Salaah, it means to make its establishment perpetual in one’s life. Thus, the many rewards and benefits, both in this world and in the next, tied to the performance of Salaah are for those who establish the prayer in the sense of Iqaamah expounded above.
o Thus, when the Qur’an says in Verse 29:45 that prayer restrains from indecency and evil, it refers to those who offer the prayer with its proper establishment. When we see people who pray but who are still performing evil and immoral deeds, we must remember that their ‘Iqaamah’ of it is missing.
o Verse 43 speaks of paying Zakaah, and we must remember that Zakaah has two lexical meanings, which are (1) to purify and (2) to grow. We should remember that Zakah is not some sort of tax levied by the state, but is rather that portion of one’s wealth and belongings that is set aside to be totally spent as the Sharia’ elucidates. The exegete (Rahimahulla) says though, that this Verse does not state in and of itself that prayer and alms-giving were obligatory upon the Israelites. But this is indeed perspicuous from Verse 5:12, where these are shown as obligatory for them, even if their modes of carrying them out where different that what we as Muslims know to be prayer and Zakaah in our day.
o The Verse mentions the performance of Ruku’ with those who make Ruku’ (those who bow down in worship). Lexically, Ruku’ may mean even the bowing down of Sajda (prostration), but in the Sharia, this has a particular technical meaning pertaining to a certain style of bowing that is to be done at a particular junction within the prayer.
o The question may arise, as to why this particular part of the prayer has been mentioned, even though there are many parts in the prayer. It is actually a metonymy for Salaah as whole; that is, a part has been made to stand for the whole. To give some other examples, we know that, for example, in Verse 17:78 the phrase “Qur’an al-Fajr” has been used, referring to the morning prayer as a whole, even though the literal phrase is (the recitation of the) Qur’an in the morning. Likewise, the word Sajdah has been used to refer to one Rak’ah of the prayer, or even to the prayer as a whole. Thus, the signification of the Verse is: “Offer Salaah with those who offer Salaah”.
Salaah with Jamaa’ah (Congregation)
o Now, there is another point in here, which is that the Israelites had been told to pray a Salaah that included making a Sajdah, but did not have any Ruku’ – the performance of Ruku’ was something given to this Islamic Ummah alone. So this is an indirect way of telling the Israelites to accept Islam.
o There is another consideration now related to jurisprudence: The phrase “Aqeem as-Salaah” [Be steadfast in prayer] establishes the obligatoriness of prayer, while the phrase “War Kau’ Ma’a Ar-Raaki’een” [Bow down with those who bow down] establishes that Salaah is to be offered in Jamaa’ah, in the company of other Muslims.
o On this last point, the question arises as to the level of obligation intended in this injunction. There is a difference of opinion among the Fuqahaa on this matter. A large number of Companions and jurists of this Ummah hold that Salaah in Jamaa’ah is Waajib (obligatory), and that it is a sin to give up the Jamaa’ah. Some of the Companions even said that Salaah offered alone without a proper excuse was invalid, and this Verse (#43) would seem to support their view, along with a number of narrations reported in this vein.
o Some examples of these narrations are provided, such as one Hadeeth in Abu Daawuud which says that for a man living close to the Masjid, his Salaah is valid only in the Masjid itself.
o Then, there is another Hadeeth where the Prophet ﷺ initially allowed a blind man an exemption from going to the Masjid for prayers due to his not having anyone to take him or bring him, but after the blind man said that he could hear the Adhaan, the Prophet ﷺ said that he must go to the Masjid, that there was no exemption in his case. And there is another narration where the Prophet ﷺ said that there is no prayer for the man who hears the Adhaan and does not go to the Masjid except with an excuse. (A point to make here is that this refers to hearing the voice of Adhaan from an average-voiced man, not one with an exceptionally loud voice, or an Adhaan given through loudspeakers). On the basis of these narrations, Companions such as Ibn Mas’ud and Abu Musa al-Ash’ari (Radhia Allahu Anhuma) have ruled that the prayer of a man in his house without an excuse when he should have gone to the Masjid renders the Salaah invalid.
o On the other hand, the majority of the Companions and later jurists hold that prayer in Jamaa’ah is not Waajib, but rather a Sunnah Muakkadah (a particularly emphasized Sunnah), which is very close to being necessary, but is not technically within the circle of Waajibaat. They interpret the phrases such as “bow down with those who bow down” to refer to emphasis, and the Ahadeeth which appear to mention invalidity of prayer at home to refer to the imperfection of such prayers.
o The most comprehensive explanation in this regard was given by Ibn Mas’ud (RAA) who mentioned that the man who really wishes to meet Allah on the Day of Judgment should offer the prayer in the place where the Adhaan is habitually made, for rhis is the Sunan al-Huda (ways of good guidance) from the Prophet ﷺ. If someone were to pray at home, he would forsake the Sunnah and go astray. He then mentioned that the man who makes Wudhu, cleanses himself as he should, and then goes to th Masjid will have good deeds and rewards added to his account, ans bad deeds forgiven from him for every step he takes to the Masjid. In their time (i.e., the Companions’ time) there was no one save the hypocrites who would miss the Jamaa’ah, to the extent that evn ill or lame men would be brought to the Masjid while supporting themselves on others.
o Thus, the explanation of Ibn Mas’ud (RAA) places the prayer in the Jamaa’ah among the Sunan al-Huda, known among the Fuqahaa as the Sunna Muakkadah. Thus, the prayer of the man in his house is valid, but he has earned the displeasure of Allah by leaving out the something which comes under the category of Muakkadah. He will be gravely sinful if he leaves it out continuously, and if all people living within the vicinity of a Masjid abandon it, they will be liable for physical punishment if persuasion has no effect on them.
An admonition to preachers without practice
o Verse 44 addresses the Jewish Rabbis, and admonishes them for a strange behavior of theirs: They used to advise their acquaintances to follow the Prophet ﷺ and to be steadfast in the religion (which shows that they knew Islam was correct), but they themselves did not follow Islam, being rather enslaved to their various base desires. This, even though they knew that the Torah reproached those scholars who did not do what they preached.
o We also see that the Verse is addressed to all those who follow the same line of conduct, even if they are from the present scholars of this world. There is one important Hadeeth in this regard, which recounts that during the Mi’raaj, the Prophet ﷺ passed by some people whose lips and tongues were being cut with scissors of fire. After asking who they were, it became apparent that they were those scholars who ordered others to do good deeds, but did not perform such deeds themselves. And there is another Hadeeth, saying that some people of Paradise will find some of their acquaintances in Hellfire and will ask as to how they could be in Hellfire, given that they attained Paradise due to the latter people? The answer will be that this group did command to the good, but did not carry it out with their own limbs.
o There is an important misconception lurking in the minds of many which is that you can only ‘practice what you preach’ before you start the actual preaching. The ‘Ulaamaa though, say that the two types of actions are separate. It is one thing to perform a good deed, and it is another thing (or deed) to encourage others to do good deeds or dissuade them from performing bad deeds. Thus, as an analogy, if someone is slacking in his prayers, yet he must still fast. And for that person who is slacking in his prayers, he still should tell others not to be lazy in the performance of their own prayers. The two sets of good deeds or bad deeds are separate, and they cannot be taken as irredeemably tied to one another.
o A personal comment: This is one of the ways in which Shaytan plays with people. He tells them that: “Well, you are lazy in doing some deed. So why do anything else? You will be in trouble in the Qiyaamah anyway, so enjoy what you can of your life meantime.” And the same goes for encouraging the good and forbidding the evil. The Shaytaan will come and whisper that there is no point in ordering others when one himself cannot carry out the requisite work. So why bother, Shaytan may say. It is important that we understand the technical difference in here between preaching and practicing and the importance of both, so that we will not get fooled by the Shaytaan or by any others from among our friends, acquaintances, or the normal people.
o And this is exactly what Imaam Maalik (RA) cited from Sa’id bin Jubayr, that Shaytan wants us to take this false sense of purity so that no one will counsel others regarding the good actions they should do and the bad actions they should refrain from; for no one can claim perfect human purity after the Prophet ﷺ, yet we all have been ordered to do the duties required by Shariah, one of them being to speak out for what is true and against what is evil.
o Let me say one more thing which I believe I have mentioned before: This is where the non-Muslim religions fall of the proverbial cliff: They thought that one must be perfectly pure in order to enter Paradise. And then they added their own invalid notions, such as saying that this perfect purity was in fact a Divine-like station, and that as such, people should seek to attain this unity with the Divine, and that anything else is invalid in terms of the final goal.
o And one very interesting thing is that Mawlaana Thaanawi (RA) would publicly denounce any bad trait he found inside himself, so that the Barakah of the sermon (and of the admonition) would help him get rid of the bad habits he had developed.
o Thus, Verse #44 is not implying that the man who slackens towards good deeds should not preach to others about the benefits of the good deeds and the dangers of perfoming evil deeds, but that he should not neglect them in his own life. Now, a question presents itself, that if the scholar and the non-scholar are both guilty if they preach what they do not do themselves, why did Allah mention only the scholar specifically? The reason is that the crime of the scholar is much more serious, since he knows that the crimes he commits are exactly that, crimes, while the non-scholar, especially if he is illiterate, may still plausibly plead ignorance for his shortcomings. Note that in here also, we are not claiming that it is good to be ignorant, or that the illiterate man is not sinning by not trying to acquire knowledge. But the scholar is basically mocking the Shariah and Islam as a whole, since he knows all the proper rules, but he still performs whatever he feels like.
o One small point is, and Allah knows best, that the Shaytaan was the most knowledgeable amongst the angels, yet he received the worst punishment from Allah. Thus, we should get knowledge of Islaam, but never to show off or with any other wrong intention, for in that case, the scholarly knowledge we may obtain could become a Nadaamah (regret) for us on the Day of Judgment.
Khushu’: The Humbleness of Heart
o Verse #45 speaks of the humble in heart. This connotes a restfulness of the heart and humility arising out of the knowledge of Allah’s Majesty and one’s own insignificance. When this really places itself in the heart, its manifestation is in making the obedience of Allah in all of its aspects pleasurable for the person; and it has outer manifestations, in the way a man comports himself, in terms of his discipline, politeness, modesty, and his “broken-heartedness” [that is, he has lost all self-love and vanity.]
o Now, one important point: If a man has no genuine humility, all of his external appearances will not make him attain real Khushu’, and in fact, it is not allowed for someone to deliberately show such things, and in that case, it is almost as if was a type of show-off. There is one example of Umar (RAA) reprimanding a young man who intentionally forced himself to show such outward signs without the commensurate Khushu’ in the heart. Also, there is one good quote from an-Nakhai who says that humility is not in wearing rough clothes, eating rough food and the like, but is truly manifested in treating everyone the same with regard to the truth and to free the heart so that it may only submit to Allah, and to perform what Allah has obligated. Also Hasan al-Basri (RA) said that ‘Umar (RAA) had what would appear to be rough external characteristics, but he had huge humbleness of heart. Finally, it is mentioned that if one unknowingly manifests the signs of humbleness without true Khushu’, then this is excusable, otherwise it is a reprehensible ruse of Satan for those who do it without proper Khushu’.
o Now, there is another word, Khudhu’, which is also used along with Khushu’. The difference is that Khushu’ refers to the lowering of the voice and of one’s glance as a result of real modesty and fear of Allah, while Khudhu’ refers to a bodily posture showing modesty and humility. Now, knowing that one who becomes unmindful of Allah during Salah is not fulfilling the obligation of remembering Allah and in fact may go father away from Allah, certain great scholars of Islam have said that the prayer is even rendered invalid without Khushu’. On the other hand, the 4 Imams of Fiqh say that even though negligence of Allah is abominable, one only needs his Takbeer and his Niyyah to be focused on the goal of praying for Allah, but that after this, if the Khushu’ is not there, the praying person does not have to repeat the prayer from a legal perspective. [Note: This is supposing that he does not commit an act within the prayer that would render his prayer invalid… of course, this may occur to the one whose mind is not at all on the prayer].
o Imam al-Ghazaali (RA) endeavored to bring the divergent views in harmony with each other by saying that the Fuqahaa are not concerned with the inner states, since they can only judge based on the exoteric actions of the limbs. Since Khushu’ is an inner state, they prescribed the lowest of this state for the acceptability of prayer, namely the turning of one’s heart at the beginning of the prayer towards the intention of praying for the sake of Allah. Moreover, had the matter of Khushu’ itself been obligatory throughout the prayer, this would have been a type of ‘Takleef Maa Laa Yutaaq’ [burdening people beyond their means], and Allah is Merciful upon His servants in this respect and does not burden them beyond their capabilities.
o Imam Al-Ghazaali concludes this discussion by saying that we should never forget the Mercy of Allah in this regard, as there is hope for the man who has performed his prayer unmindfully, that Allah may turn to him in Mercy, because this man at least turned his heart totally towards Allah even for a few moments, and at the very least he will not be counted among those who gave up the prayers altogether. Thus, fear and hope should be there in this matter: Fear that there is punishment due to one’s inattentiveness, and hope that Allah’s Mercy will encompass the person and his deeds, including the very deficient ones.
o Verses 47-48: Commentary: Verse 47 asks the Israelites to remember the blessings of Allah, so that they may be thankful to Allah and thus obey Him. Of course, the Verse was addressed to the Jews at the time of the Prophet ﷺ while the blessings had been received by their forefathers, but this is reconciled since the blessings of the ancestors usually come down to their descendants; so it was as if the blessings had been given to these latter Jews directly.
o With regards to Allah giving them preference, this is a particular preference related to certain matters, or only over a large part of men – such as the contemporaries of earlier Israelites.
o With reference to Verse #48, the Day of Judgment is mentioned. There are certain points mentioned in this Verse which may be explained as follows: With regards to no one sufficing another on that Day, it refers to paying the dues on his behalf. For example, if one man did not have sufficient prayers, etc., it will not be possible for another man to take from his own “account of deeds” and give to the former. Secondly, ransom refers to paying money for the release of a criminal, and this too will be disallowed. Receiving support is of course, being relieved of a situation through the help of a patron or strong source. And the most important point is in fact with regards to Shafaa’ah (intercession). This Verse is in fact referring to those who do not have Imaan, that they will not receive any help from intercessors. But as we know, other Verses mention that intercession on behalf of the people will be accepted, and the Ahadeeth clarify that this is with respect to the believers, even the sinners amongst them. So the crucial thing for receiving support, intercession, etc., is to have Imaan in this world, for otherwise one’s deeds will be invalid in the Hereafter, and no helper will be ‘connected to his case’ that may help him.
A doctrinal point
o As we know, certain of the Mu’tazila and other groups denied intercession for all people including the believers. But, as we can see from the above discussion, this impossibility is only with respect to the disbelievers.
o If we wish to get a little deeper into this issue, what happens is that the Mu’tazila maintained that Allah’s justice basically compels Him to punish the sinners in such-and-such manner. But the Sunnis say this is wrong, since there is no ‘table’ (so as to say) tying the performance of sins (or good deeds for that matter) with a necessary amount of punishment or reward. Yes, there are certain major sins that have a Hadd (lit. limit, as in a set and prescribed punishment), but this is with respect to this world. But in the next world, no one can say that the amount for this or that sin/good deed is set or limited.
o Allah knows best, but it seems that this mechanistic view of such affairs was the result of the influence of Dharmic-oriented religions and ideologies upon the minds of certain groups and individuals. And it could not have been any other way, since it is things like ‘Karma’ which say that there are determined causes and effects, and that there is no way that the interaction of different causal factors can but give rise to certain conclusions/effects.
o Of course, the Muslim does not accept this. I believe the more detailed proof of why this is so has been given elsewhere, and it may be consulted by those seeking more detailed answers.
o Verse 49: Commentary: This Verse begins spelling out the special favors given to the Israelites. Now, Fir’awn had been told that a child would be born who would destroy his kingdom, and on account of this prediction, Fir’awn started to kill all males as soon as they were born, while he would spare the females, since they were not part of the direct threat, and they could become servants when they grew up. The “great trial” referred to in this Verse is either the slaughter of the males, which was without a doubt a great calamity that required patience, or the deliverance of the people from the Pharaoh, which was a blessing necessitating thankfulness.
o (Personal note: This would seem to indicate that there is a trial also in the good things that one receives, since if proper thankfulness is not given to Allah for such blessings (and to those who were apparent causes for one to have received such favors), then it will become a source of regret on the Day of Judgment.)
o Verses 50-51 (Commentary): Herein are the details about the deliverance. Verse 50 refers to that which happened during the time of Musa (Alayhi Salaam) who, after the persistence of Fir’awn and his chiefs in their disbelief, took the Israelites across the split sea while Fir’awn and his army were drowned.
o And Verse 51 refers to another incident around the same time. After the Israelites had been saved, they asked for a Sharia from Allah which they could follow. Allah granted this to Musa (AS) in the Mount of Tur after 40 days of his (AS) fasting and devotion, but in the meantime, the Israelites fell into idolatry through their worship of the calf fashioned by as-Saamiryy. Allah refers to this as a great injustice, due to their not giving Allah the sole worship that is due to Him alone. And this is especially so after they had been saved in such a spectacular and miraculous manner when all apparent natural help was lost.
A doctrinal point
o The author (RA) mentions that this Verse talks about the splitting of the sea, proving that miracles do occur at the hands of Prophets unlike what some “Westernized Muslims” may say to the contrary. From what I know, the truth is that the denial of miracles is a denial of the religion of Islam itself and a proof of the denier’s unfortunate Irtidaad (apostasy), since it is a direct denial of the primary means through which Prophethood is made known on this Earth, and thus of Prophethood itself. There are a number of matters that may be discussed later, as in how the concept of materialistic naturalism leads directly to a denial of miracles, but the basis is that the wholesale denial of miracles is an act of disbelief.
o Verse 52 (Commentary): The Israelites were forgiven only after they had offered Taubah. The word employed in here is La’alla (لَعَلَّ), which is a sign for expectation. Of course, it does not mean that Allah had a doubt or misgiving about this issue (May He be Glorified above this assertion), but only that there is an expectation to feel grateful when one receives a pardon.
o Verse 53 (Commentary): First of all, the Tawrah was the book given to Musa (Alayhi Salaam). There is also a discussion on the term ‘Al-Furqaan’. This is a term signifying that which separates truth from falsehood, and in here it may refer to (a) the injunctions of the Sharia found in the Tawrah, since any Divine Sharia resolves differences with regards to doctrines and what is to be considered as right and wrong for that given time. (b) miracles, which differentiate between true and false claims, or (c) The Tawrah itself, which has the qualities of being a Book of Allah and of being an instrument for separating truth from falsehood.
o Verse 54 (Commentary): Here we see the method through which the Taubah of the Israelites was accepted. The ones who had not indulged in idolatry were to slay the ones who had. Thus, we see that capital punishment may be prescribed in certain cases as a part of fulfilling the Taubah completely; it may not be sufficient to only declare that one has taken a firm conviction not to repeat the sin again. And even in Islam, certain major sins also fall under this rule, such as intentional homicide, adultery (if proven through the proper means), etc.
o But one thing that should noted is that Allah, in His Mercy, has not imposed the death penalty on the Muslim who apostatizes but then comes back to the faith, or the one who casually commits Kufr (basically becomes an apostate) and then realizes his mistake and turns back to Allah.
o What is mentioned next is that the Israelites, through their acceptance of this Divine Injunction, became worthy of receiving the Mercy and Favor of Allah in the Hereafter. Again, one lesson that we can see from this is that Allah ties His Mercy for the other world to whichever action(s) He wills, and it is not necessary for us to find the ‘wisdom’ behind all (or any) of the Shar’i judgments we know of.
o And this is important to consider especially in this day and age, where we are literally swarmed with so many different purported routes for finding out the correctness of social interactions, of right and wrong, etc., and many of these ‘routes’ in fact lead very far away from the Islamic Shariah. So this Fitnah or tribulation should be countered by reminding ourselves that the judgment is totally with Allah, and that what He has decided is the final matter. If we can understand something concerning the wisdom of such legislations, well and good, but if we cannot do so, then this is also well and good, since we would then endeavor to obey and follow Allah even in the cases when our judgment cannot at all penetrate the secrets behind the Shar’i rules.
o Another personal note: There is yet another issue to learn from the injunction for the ones who did not indulge in idolatry to kill those who had done so, and that is that Islam at all times has been a religion of action. This is regardless of whether one has previously done a sin, or whether he is free from sins prior to the Divine Command. What we see in here is that there were those who had not engaged in idolatry, yet they were ordered to carry out the execution of those who had worshipped the idol. It was not that the God-Fearing group was told that they had not sinned, and that they could go back and be passive recluses in their obedience to Allah, and that Allah would destroy the sinners through supernatural means.
o This also has a great lesson for us Muslims today, since the general feeling in this day and age is that religion is a private matter, and that if one indeed does feel that his religious experiences are beneficial and positive for him, he should retire to a certain place and do his prayers and meditations, but not get involved in the general life of the society. But this ideology in fact comes from the totally invalid reasoning that there is a route that can be taken in order to achieve literal union with God [in some form or the other], while Islam categorically rejects such assumptions.
o Rather what Islam says is that the creation is only to take the Divine Decrees and apply them to his or her life. Sometimes, these decrees involve only the person and his direct relationship with Allah, but at other times, there is a need for an active intervention in the world as a whole. The assumption that only a passive relationship with the world at large is the correct religious experience is then, altogether weak and baseless – and again, comes from the initially flawed assumption that God or the Absolute is passive and that with our passivity and calmness, we will reach union with Him or It.
o Verse 55 (Commentary): This Verse is talking about the time after Musa (Alayhi Salaam) brought the Tawrah to the Israelites; but there were among them some who persisted in disbelief saying that Allah Himself should vouchsafe that it was really Him who revealed the Tawrah. Amazingly, Allah and His Prophet (of that time) “accepted for this condition to be fulfilled” and seventy from the Israelites were taken to the Tur Mountain where they heard Allah the Exalted. But even with this, they said that they wished to see Allah and only then would they believe. But this was the height of insolence, and Allah killed them with a single thunderbolt.
o Personal Note: One thing that we can learn from this story is that there will always be those who reject the clearest and most obvious proofs with sophistry and others types of weak objections and that their objections may go on and on, but that this does not mean that we must answer them in kind (i.e., from the methodological perspective). Thus, when we consider what a non-Muslim may argue against Islam, this is to be taken within the context of how his argument stacks up within the rules of knowledge and the Usool of Islam. It is extremely important for us to realize that most of the arguments (whether in articles, books, debates, etc.), are many a times missing the target altogether, and have very little to do with even raising a fundamental objection that has to be answered by the scholars of Islam. This is something that has come up obviously due to the intellectual stagnation of many in this Ummah in terms of learning the religion formally and through the proper channels, and it is something that must be addressed by all of the Muslims, not only the ‘Ulama amongst them. At the very end, it is also an issue of the ego and the Nafs, of the Muslim laypeople thinking themselves very high while in fact they are not, and suffering the consequences of not learning the fundamentals of Islam properly.
o Verse 56 (Commentary): This Verse actually recounts the favor of Allah to Musa (Alayhi Salaam) since he brought these men back to life so that the suspicious ones among the Israelites would not accuse Musa (AS) of having killed the 70 men who had gone with him to the Tur mountain.
o Allah knows best, but it seems that in certain cases, the favor of Allah upon one of those whom He loves is so great that amazing things happen even to those whose hearts and minds are not in the correct state, and this happens to them indirectly, yet the benefits conferred upon even these mediocre or lowly people are still enormous due to their proximity (physical or otherwise) to those whom Allah loves.
o Verse 57 (Commentary): This Verse recounts what occurred in the wilderness of Tih. The Israelites belonged to Syria, but had settled in Egypt (this is related to story of Yusuf (Alayhi Salaam), and of course, they had come under the domination of the Pharaoh. However, when Allah sent His Victory to them, they were ordered to go to war against the ‘Amaaliqah and to free their homeland. However, their courage failed them when they learnt about the power of their enemies, and due to this failure of theirs, Allah punished them by making them wander and roam about in a wilderness, where they could not go back to Egypt, or go on to Syria. The exegete (RA) mentions that even when they made a march towards Egypt and camped on for the night, they would always wake up in the same place they had been at the start, and this situation continued for 40 years in the wilderness of Tih (its literal meaning of ‘Tih’ being ‘having lost one’s way’).
o Personal note: It seems to be that there are many important lessons for the Muslims from this story itself. Firstly, we notice that Allah has commanded and does command people to do Jihaad against certain peoples. We saw in one of the Verses above that Allah had commanded the God-fearing among the Israelites to slaughter those who had committed idolatry, and that Allah would forgive them all. In here, the Jihaad is commanded against those who were also committing evil and polytheism, but who had not so directly and boldly opposed the Divine Commandments, since the revelation given to Musa (Alayhi Salaam) had not been addressed to them. What this again seems to show is that Allah may give a directive for fighting certain people, whether they have heard and rejected the message or whether they have not heard the message at all and are only disobeying Allah in a more general manner.
o Of course, the above is mentioned in a very general and abstract sense, so that all of us may see that Allah may and does decree whatever He wills to His Servants. Now, what Islam as given to the Prophet ﷺ says about Jihaad has to be studied as a part of Fiqh, but what one has to do before studying the Fiqh rules themselves is to understand this aspect of Allah’s total right to decree whatever He wills to His Servants, even if it seems to some of us that there is no ‘symmetry’ between the decree and the ‘level of culpability’ of the people the decree may be directed ‘against’.
o Anyway, it cannot be said that Jihaad is something superseded, or that it has no relevance today. Of course, there are rules of Jihaad and these have to be adhered to so that no one goes beyond what Allah has permitted, but we should never take the position that “Jihaad has no place in ‘modern Islam’”, as we hear some people expressing nowadays. [Interestingly, a good number of those who attack Islam based on its warfare doctrines have no problem whatsoever with other socio-political entities engaging in warfare from time to time, whatever their reasons may be. I know this is basically an anectodal statement and it is also a partial observation, but we must remember that many, nay most, of those who oppose Jihaad in Islaam are not what we call die-hard principled pacifists (not that if they were this would make them right, but it is only a symptom that something else is the issue at play in here).]
o Personal note: Another thing we see in this Verse is that material causes and effects have no relevance when it comes to the obligations of Jihaad [We are not talking about the wisdom of engaging in a certain action where the prospects may look bleak, but that Jihaad may be and has been directly prescribed by Allah even in ‘bleak’ (conventionally speaking) situations. Again, the specifics of Jihaad in Islam both from the “only-Fiqh” perspective and the “wisdom” perspective are outside the scope of this discussion].
o We should likewise consider the issue of gross materiality being mentally rejected in favor of Allah’s full control of the Universe, and how this is further seen when we reflect on how the Israelites where wandering for 40 years in the wilderness. This is so, because according to the laws of nature, one should get closer and closer to their final destination once they set out for a certain place, all other things being equal. But as per the interpretation we see in here, the Israelites were supernaturally transported back to their starting place every single time, and could make no progress of any type. It is not only that they were lost, but that they were at the same exact spot they were at in the beginning, which is an amazing Divine Act when we consider that the space they occupied was only around 10 miles (as per what the exegete mentions).
o Now, for the ones who are untrained in the truth of Islamic philosophy, they will come and blurt out that what is being presented in here is something impossible to have ever occurred, a total myth. But those who know better can see that it is merely an actualization of the rule that Allah can immediately transport as many people as He wills to whichever place He wishes, without need for any of the common devices known at that time (or even now). For example, there is no need that any person staying at a certain location X and ending up at location Y has to traverse the space between these two places. Allah may simply create this person at the new location Y without any physical traversing of any space whatsoever.
o The exegete also mentions that there was yet another set of miraculous things that transpired in this wilderness, which were in this case a favor of Allah upon them, even during their punishment. Since there was no food, clothes, or protection from the elements, Allah provided for all of these for them, either through disallowing their clothes from wearing out, giving then Manna and Salwa as food, guiding them in the darkness through pillars of light, etc.
o But even here, there was disobedience from the part of the Israelites towards Allah, in that they were commanded not to take more food than what they needed, and not to store anything for the future, since Allah promised that He would provide for them. However, when they disobeyed this command, then their provisions began to rot.
o And in here, there is another indication that is extremely important for all times, in that when one is certain that something has come from Allah, then it is incorrect to try to find ways out, to try to find loopholes and excuses. This may be one of the biggest reasons why the modern-day Muslims are going through so many difficulties. Yes, of course, life for Muslims was never meant to be smooth sailing, but the way to combat this is to follow the Islamic injunctions, not to say that we should become more and more like the non-Muslims so that we may succeed. The main issue in this is that the goal is not the raising of any one Muslim only in the selfish sense [in that the ‘individual me’, the ‘I’ will become rich, successful, etc.] but rather that the entire Ummah should have the primacy in the world. And this has, in fact, very little to do with technological advancements an the like, but rather it has to do with trust in Allah, in His Revelation, and after that, not turning one’s attention to the right or to the left and listening to what every blamer may state. And this is because the reason for primacy will be Allah’s supernatural help, while if one tries to take the road of the non-Muslims, then this is only a ‘balancing’ in the methodology used, along with a huge advantage for the non-Muslims in this regard.
Verse 58: Commentary
o The exegete mentions that there are in fact two views with regards to when this incident took place. One view says that this was a commandment given to the Israelites after they had complained of eating the same Manna and Salwa every day, and this was the way they were to enter that city with the proper etiquette. Another view is that this was the city they were supposed to go in for Jihaad, and that this was a revelation sent to Yusha’ (Alayhi Salaam) after their long wanderings in the desert.
o The exegete next mentions a doubt that may occur to certain people, and this concerns how the different views above would give rise to the questions as to whether the Qur’an follows a strictly chronological order in its stories, and if it does not, what are we to make of that. In truth, the Qur’an is not relating stories only for the sake of telling stories [as a show and entertainment], but rather to draw important spiritual and practical principles from such stories. It is from this angle that we understand that if a certain effect is sought in the reader [that is, for him to understand a certain principle or overarching rule], then it will be quite normal for the strict chronological sequence to be put to one side, and the order of the incidents rearranged based on the intent. After all, intent is the most important driving force behind any speech that is articulated.
o One thing I personally wanted to add is that this objection comes from a Bible-centered view of religious scriptures. As we know, the Bible in the vast majority of its books follows a purportedly chronological sequence, and some people artificially feel that the Qur’an should follow the same way; they show confusion and bewilderment that the Qur’an is not a biography of the Prophet’s ﷺ life or a history of Islam, or something to that effect.
o But the truth, of course, is that the Qur’an’s arrangement has been revealed to us along with the Verses [or the portions thereof], and it is clear that a chronological, almost story-like type of biography would not have the same impact upon the hearts and minds of people as what we see in the proper arrangement of the Qur’an.
o So we, as Muslims, should endeavor not to let such thoughts penetrate our minds, but rather, we should understand that the Qur’an has not only its own unique usage of words and phrases, but that its ‘macro-arrangement’ [if we can call it thus] is also unique and amazing.
o Coming back to the discussion of this Verse, Allah promised the Israelites to forgive their faults and shortcomings with only their doing this small deed. Part of what we can learn from this is that Allah gives pardon [or punishment] to people based on whichever of the actions of these beings He decides and legislates. Even if the action seems to be very small, yet Allah may elevate it and multiply its worth many times over [and the same goes with evil deeds, so we must be aware of this truth as well.]
o Again, this is one of the reasons why, while it is interesting to study the wisdom behind the legislations of Allah the Exalted, we should never, ever take such reasons that we may understand as being the actual, definitive reason why the legislation was revealed: At the end of the discussion, ‘benefitting the Creation’ is not something ‘obligatory’ or ‘incumbent’ on Allah, Exalted be He above what some people utter and think.
The meaning of Ihsan
o Most of the time, Ihsan may be translated loosely as ‘sincerity’ or ‘wholeheartedness’, but in fact this is a weak translation, and the term Ihsan signifies doing a thing beautifully, in a manner that is proper to it. This is the lexical meaning, and we also know of the Hadeeth of Jibreel (Alayhi Salaam) where the Prophet ﷺ said that Ihsan is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you do not see Him, then know that indeed He sees you. So these are some of the important lessons we must keep in mind concerning the fuller signification of ‘Ihsan’ within the Islamic context.
o And from this we see the vastness of the Arabic language and how translations, especially in modern Western idioms, turn out to be necessarily much longer than the Arabic original if they are to maintain a visage of consistency with the original Arabic words or phrases.
Verse 59: Commentary
o This is a continuation of the preceding Verse. Allah had commanded the Israelites to say ‘Hittatun’ (indicating repentance for one’s sin and a request for pardon), but instead they mocked at this order and started saying ‘Hintatun’ (wheat) or ‘Habbatun Fi Sha’irah’ [grain in the midst of barley]. Due to this disobedience, Allah sent down a plague on them which killed seventy thousand of them. The exegete mentions that as per a Prophetic Hadeeth, plague is a punishment for the disobedient but a blessing for the obedient ones.
o One thing that I wish to personally say is that we see in here mockery of the religion sent by Allah from part of the Israelites, even though the great miracles and wonders, the very proofs that make obedience upon people incumbent, were descending in their midst at every moment. This shows that accaeptance of the true faith is a blessing from Allah alone, because no matter how much the person may have intellectually understood the validity and even irrefutability of such proofs and evidences, this does not entail accepting to follow such proofs except if Allah places this light inside the person’s heart.
o And this is obviously very important for us to consider in our age today, hen we do have the Qur’an with us, yet there are those who will mock at Islam and the Prophet of Islam ﷺ. The curious thing in all this is that they do this mockery as a matter of principle, in order to show the world that they have the ‘freedom’, the ‘liberty’ to do whatever action they wish in relation to Islam. [Now, what should be the response of Muslims in such a situation is another matter, outside the scope of this discussion, but I just wanted to show that there is a definite ‘religion’ (or Deen) behind this call to ‘total freedom’ that we see in our day and age].
Injunctions and related considerations
o Based on this Verse, the Muslim jurists have derived the rule that a change in the words of the Qur’an, of the Ahadeeth, or of a Divine Commandment which invents a baseless meaning or distorts the original meaning is totally impermissible.
o There is another question as well, which is that would it also be impermissible to change a phrase or a word of the primary Islamic texts while maintaining the meaning basically intact. Imaam al-Qurtubi (RA) says that for certain texts (the Qur’an being one of them), the exact words are also part of what is intended to be conveyed to the listener, and thus it is not permissible to change the words. Another obvious example of this is the Adhaan, or the different things that one is to recite in the Salaat from among the Tasbeehaat in different junctions of the prayer. All of these have been reported in the Ahaadeeth and it is not permissible for us worshippers to change such words, even if our intentions are supposedly clean and we wish to keep the meanings intact.
o The exegete (RA) next mentions that this is extremely important to understand with regards to the Qur’an, because if one reads even a very good translation, or an Arabic text containing parts of the Qur’an but in which the words have been changed in many instances without injuring the meaning, this is not at all considered as a recitation of the Qur’an. This is because ‘Qur’an’ is the name of the meanings inherent in the exact words revealed by Allah to the Prophet ﷺ, in such a way that the two are inseperable from each other.
o This is a good point brought up by the exegete (RA), since there are certain people who say that there are a lot of old Muslims who cannot recite Arabic and they have no hope of being able to learn how to read the Qur’an properly at all, so how can Allah take away their reward of recitation given their inability? [that is, due to an inability that was not their fault (for example, they may have converted to Islam at an advanced age), they can only read the translation, so should they not be rewarded with having recited the Qur’an?]
o But the answer is that Allah will indeed give a reward to them for what they have done, but we cannot say tht they will get the reward of “reading the Qur’an”. Of course, Allah may give whatever amount of reward He wills to whoever He wills from among His slaves, but we need to be more cautious concerning what we term “Qur’an” and “reward associated with reading the Qur’an”.
o Knowing the above, another thing mentioned is that the Israelites not only changed the revealed word, but even the meaning of the command as well, bringing the punishment of Allah upon themselves.
o And there is another discussion that comes up, now concerning the matter of certain Ahaaadeeth wherein it is the meanings that are really intended, with less emphasis upon the words. A number of illustrious scholars of Islam (such as the scholars of the Madhaahib, Imams ash-Shaafi’i, Abu Haneefah, and Maalik (Rahimahumullah)) held that it was quite permissible to report a Hadeeth in its meaning alone, provided that the one reporting it had pefect knowledge of the Arabic and was also familiar with the context of the Hadeeth, so that there woul be no misinterpretation or distortion in the text.
o But there were those masters of Ahaadeeth who did not allow a change even in the slightest matter of a Hadeeth. Among such masters we have figures such as Muhammad ibn Seereen, Qaasim bin Muhammad (Rahimahumulah), and others. Some insisted on this so much so that even if there was an obvious lexical mistake made by a reporter in the chain, the next man in the chain must still report the narration as he heard it (even with the mistake), and only indicate what the correct word most likely is in that case.
o The exegete (RA) mentions that this position seems to be backed up by a Hadeeth where the Prophet ﷺ did not allow a man to make a change in a Du’a in even one word [from Nabiyy to Rasool, but that he was to keep the word Nabiyy intact]. Likewise, there is the narration where the Prophet ﷺ prays for the man who hears the Prophet’s ﷺ speech and transmits it as he hears it.
o But as we listed earlier, most of the jurists are of the opinion that even though one should try to report a Hadeeth as far as possible in exactly the same words one has heard it, yet it is permissible to report it in its meaning only, particularly when one may not remember the exact words in spite of his best efforts.
o Regarding the Hadeeth: “…conveyed it exactly as he heard it”, this could be taken to refer chiefly to reporting the meaning without any alterations. In fact, Imam al-Qurtubi (RA) has mentioned that this very Hadeeth is a proof for the permissibility of changing words in a Hadeeth whenever necessary, since this narration has come down to us in a number of versions.
o Now, concerning the Hadeeth wherein the Companion was not allowed to change the word Nabiyy for Rasool, one explanation is that the word ‘Nabiyy’ carries more sublimity that the word ‘Rasool’ [which may be used for any Messenger whatsoever, even the envoy an earthly king for example]. Another explanation is that this is a supplication and basically a prayer, and in such a case, those words that have been appointed by Allah and His Messenger obviously have much higher might than anything else one may think of himself. This is also a reason why those who prepare Ta’weedh, or suggest words to pray [in order to avert something bad, to bring about some cure, etc.] are very careful in choosing only that which has been rigorously authenticated. What may be said in here is that this comes back to the first type of speech, where not only the meanings but the words themselves have to be considered, since both are intended and both are efficacious.
o Verse 60: Commentary This Verse is again related with the wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness, when Allah saved them from their extreme thirst by directing Musa (AS) to strike a rock with his staff, from which twelve springs would gush forth, one for each of the Israelite tribes. The Israelites were also instructed not to spread mischief in the land which amounted in this case, to a prohibition of disobedience and transgression of Allah’s commands.
o Now, al-Baydhaawi (RA) points out that it is a great error [in logic, in the understanding of the workings of the Universe and of the world] to deny miracles. In this context, if Allah has given certain rocks the unusual property of drawing stones close to themselves (that is, in the form of magnetism), it cannot then be said that water gushing forth from certain rocks is something technically ‘impossible’. And again, this is simply a consideration of the ways in which rocks normally act. If we take into consideration what Allah may and does show of miracles and amazing things in this world, then the gushing forth of water from rocks is not strange from any angle whatsoever, and the one who denies has deeper spiritual and ideological problems which need treatment.
An answer to a doubt about the Israelites
o It has been asked, whether it is necessary to offer formal prayers in order to ask Allah for rain. We see that Musa (AS) simply prayed for water, and Allah gave this water to him and his people. As far as our Shariah is concerned, Imam Abu Haneefah (RA) said that this principle holds true for our times as well. We see that the Prophet ﷺ has acted differently in different times. On one occasion, the Prophet ﷺ prayed to Allah for rain after the Khutbah of ‘Id, and in another occasion, he ﷺ asked for rain during the Khutbah of the Jumu’ah prayer.
o The exegete (RA) says that the most important element though, is that there should be repentance for one’s sins, and an acknowledgment that one has no power and that he is truly humble in front of Allah. There cannot be a hope that Allah will bring down the rains as long as a person is still openly sinning [not that Allah will definitely not bring down blessings on open sinners in this world, but only that one should understand the powerlessness one truly has and how one is dependent and should be submissive to Allah, both in good and in bad times.]
o This also brings up another subject for discussion, which is that many hardcore atheists say that our attribution of simple things like rain, winds, etc., to the power of Allah is simply because at that time people had no concept of the naturalistic mechanism through which things worked and they simply gave a supernatural cause to everything that occurred, whether that was something normal or extraordinary in their eyes.
o From what I can discern, I will briefly say only that the issue would have to be discussed in terms of the Existence of Allah in a simpler context – that is, in terms of contingent objects an/or events, and how these indicate the existence of Allah the Exalted. If we go into the explanation provided by Islam in many cases (about rain, thunder, or any other natural phenomena) without going into the required prerequisites (which also include a study and discussion of the Usool of the Deen from an abstract angle), what will probably happen is that the opponent will simply stonewall whatever we say. For example, the opponent does not believe in angels who carry out the commands of their Lord in a plane that we normally cannot discern, and they consider this proposition itself as flawed, so there is no point in bringing angels into the discussion when they do not at all accept the existence of the Lord and the Creator of these angels.
Verse 61: Commentary
o What is being explicitly mentioned here was hinted at in a previous Verse (#58), and this also occurred in the wilderness of Tih, when the Israelites grew weary of the one type of food they supernaturally received and instead instigated Musa (AS) to ask Allah for them to cultivate the land in order to grow the food they were used to eating previously.
o The exegete (RA) says that thus, they were being ungrateful and impertinent [that is, having no consideration for propriety towards Allah and His Messengers]. And this was obviously the case, since they even slayed the Prophets even while knowing the terrible deed they were committing; yet, they were so stubborn to the truth. This is why their degradation and disgracing are mentioned in here, insofar as they had no respect with others, and ultimately they did not even respect themselves.
o One manifestation of this disgrace is that temporal power has been taken away from them forever. The exegete (RA) mentions that in spite of this, the Dajjal [referred to by many as the Anti-Christ, while in the Islamic nomenclature it would translate more as the ‘False Messiah’] who is of the Jewish race, will have dominion over the world, like that of a robber. However, this cannot be described as having temporal power in the sense we are referring to it in here. And another thing to consider is that Allah revealed to Musa (AS) that if the Jews continued in their disobedience, they would have to live under others in humiliation and chastisement (as mentioned in Verse 7:167).
o Next, the exegete mentions how the Sahaaba and the Tabi’een have interpreted the disgrace and humiliation referred to by this Verse. Ibn Kathir (RA) mentions in one of his works that even if the Jews grow wealthy, they are always despised by others; if others get hold of them, they will humiliate them and put them under the conditions of servitude. And from the Companion Ibn ‘Abbas (RAA) it is reported that they will always be under the domination of others and will paying taxes (either Jizyah or otherwise) to them.
o The exegete next mentions another Verse in the Qur’an that also speaks of the degradation of the Jews, which [in translation] says: ‘And disgrace has been stamped over them wherever they are found, unless (saved) through a rope from Allah and through a rope from men” (Verse 3:112).
o The rope (or means) from Allah refers to those whom Allah has saved from this disgrace [such as women, children, and those who do not go to war against the Muslims].
o The rope from men refers to a number of things: Either the permission granted to the Jews to live under a Muslim rule through their payment of Jizya, an also (due to the expression being ‘rope from men’ and not only from the Muslims] that they may make political arrangements with other non-Muslims and through this attain peace in a relative sense of the word.
o The exegete (RA) also very importantly mentions the nature of the exception that is being referred to in this Verse, by saying that exceptions are of two kinds: (a) when what has been excepted formed or still forms, a part of what it has been excepted from and (b) when that which has been excepted did not form, or no longer forms, part of what it has been excepted from. The exegete presents this definition, since if the Verse makes an exception of the first kind, it would mean that all the Jews always and everywhere live in disgrace except in two situations – protection provided by Allah, or a treaty of peace either with Muslims or non-Muslims. If it is of the second type, this would mean that the Jews as a group would remain in disgrace except for some of them who may find protection under the commandment of Allah, or of others who may receive support from other nations and thus disguise the disgrace accorded to them by Allah. Thus, in the first case, the exception is concentrated on certain situations the Jews may face, while in the second case, it is with respect to certain subgroups from among the Jews.
o So what happens is that Verse 3:112 explains this present Verse (2:61), and also helps to dispel a doubt in the minds of some as to how to reconcile this Verse with the establishment of an Israeli state in the land of Shaam. The truth is that Israel is an anomalous state that has been set up in the midst of Muslim countries in order to serve the interests of the Western powers. And as we know, without the continued propping up of these powers for the Israeli state, Israel would face tremendous international isolation, even irrelevance. So this is the “rope from men” that the Qur’an is referring to in Verse 3:112, and there is no contradiction between the Verse and events on the ground.
o Another thing that we see is that even with the presence of the Israeli state, it is still a comparatively small percentage of the world’s land mass and population, and it cannot be considered that this rather small country has altogether dispelled the disgrace the Jews have been living in for centuries under the decree of Allah.
o Now, I wish to discuss some additional matters that have not been explicitly mentioned by the exegete (RA) but which may definitely come up in the mind of many people. To begin with, some people may look at the discussion above and say that is reeks of anti-Semitism through and through, and this is simply false.
o To this, our response is that this talk of the inappropriateness (in a comprehensive and encompassing way) of speaking bad things about any group or religion whatsoever comes from a concept of reality wherein religion is not given any consideration at all, and where all of the pronouncements of the Deen are treated with scorn and referred to as myths. But in the point of view of the true religion, there will be some cases when the errors of different peoples, the punishment they have received from Allah, and the punishment and degradation that they may face in the future have been stated, either implicitly or explicitly.
o Besides (as the exegete (RA) mentions later), this is not a matter to consider from the point of view that a certain person or group has absolutely no chance of salvation no matter what happens [that is, it is unlike the case, of say Abu Lahab, who was supernaturally prevented from accepting the truth, and this was conveyed to humans via the revelation even during Abu Lahab’s own lifetime]. Rather, this should be taken from the point of view that the initial disadvantageous propensity of a certain people in the past, present, and future has been mentioned, but it does not at all imply that the doors of repentance and of salvation have been closed on each individual, but rather any of the individuals belonging to this group can reach the truth and salvation if he reforms himself, repents to Allah, and joins the correct path.
o So again, this ultimately comes back to a consideration of the true way to approach the religion, and that this entails is going back to the basics, considering what constitutes proper belief in Allah, what constitutes a miracle, how the textual sources of the religion are verified to be either probabilistic or certain, and then simply accept what the unquestionable texts [in both content and meaning] convey to us.
o But an additional point is that the texts of Islam also mention the problems and difficulties that this Muslim Ummah itself will go through at different stages of history, and that a lot of these problems will have as their root the laxity and carelessness of the Muslims themselves in terms of how we take the religion. Thus, there is no truth to the claim of ‘discrimination’ as a blameworthy invention of the Muslims, since Allah is the one who chooses, who differentiates, who ‘discriminates’ between different people [either as individuals and/or as groups], and He is informing us of His Decree and His Decisions that have and will occur, through the well-known means of informational transmission.
o There are a few more matters I wish to mention in here: To those who say that the Israeli nation is strong and sturdy, the exegete (RA) already mentioned that it is very much propped up by Christian and secularist powers – the ‘rope from men’. But even if we consider the secular, democratic principles upon which the modern nation-state system operates, we see that the land currently called Israel [along with what is referred to as the Occupied territories] would probably not have a Jewish entity or character if all the people living within its (legal and occupied) borders where to have a ‘democratic vote’ about the ethnic and ideological character that this land should have. This is because the non-Jewish population currently living in ‘Israel’ will or may have already superseded the ‘Jewish’ population, as has been attested by a number of academicians and figures. And this is one of the reasons why Israel keeps its identity as the dichotomy of being a ‘Jewish and democratic state’, even though both identities cannot really be viable in the mid- to long-term reality.
o Not only this, but we also see that a good number of formal Israeli citizens have simply given up on the nation of Israel as a whole, so much so that hundreds of thousands (or even upwards of a million) of Israeli citizens have moved out of Israel, so much so that this has had an effect on the entire ‘Zionist project’.
o Then we have the issue of always living in fear. Yes, we know that Israel is a technologically advanced nation, that it has won a number of wars against Arab Muslim nations and so forth, but we see today that most of their official public pronouncements and even their threats emanate from a [real or imagined] need for security and protection from their many enemies. If we take such pronouncements from the Israelis at face value, this would only highlight the truth of the Qur’anic Verses [such as 2:61, 3:112, 7:167], that Allah will always send upon the disobedient Jews those who would punish and degrade them. And what greater disgrace can there be than the [real or perceived] threat of annihilation and termination. (In fact, we as Muslims know that the Jews will not be terminated en masse in the sense spoken of by many people, but this is a derivation made from our own texts).
o There is yet one final thing to consider, which is that the Verses of the Qur’an do not restrict the people who will degrade and humiliate the Jews as being only Muslims, or good people, or anything like that. Rather, it only indicates that the disobedient Jews will be punished by the hands of men. So it is a declaration of what will happen to the Jews throughout history, even if their attackers and those whom Allah sends as punishment upon them are evil people themselves, or even worse than the Jews.
Verse 62: Commentary
o The exegete (RA) mentions that the previous Verse spoke of the sins of the Israelites and how their actions led to the wrath of Allah to fall upon them. This may lead some people to fancy that the repentance of the Jews as a people will never be acceptable to Allah.
o But this Verse counters such a potential thought, indicating that whosoever decides with a true commitment to serve Allah and to repent for his past sins, then Allah will turn towards him and forgive his sins.
o Of course, we should remember that the current situation, after the revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet ﷺ is such that no one can follow a path other than Islam. So it is not that “people of goodwill” will enter Paradise regardless of their creed [or say, if they are Jews, Christians, or Saabeans], but rather, that the members of these three religions (and by extension, of any other religion or ideology) will be forgiven their sins and will be the victorious ones in the Hereafter if they come into the fold of Islam. Anything else is a misplaced and dangerous “over-liberalism”, so as to say.
o The exegete mentions in brief that the exact beliefs of the Saabeans are not known, but that they were most likely star-worshippers (this should also be an indication for those who like to hold on to a “hip liberalist” but ultimately false interpretation of this Verse that the issue is not at all about anyone and everyone entering Paradise regardless of whether they accept Islam or not – for the ones who ignorantly worship heavenly bodies in fact have no belief in Allah, not even the nomenclature of worshipping Allah (as is the case of Jews and Christians who at least say that what they are worshipping is Allah, even though they have many theological problems)).
o The exegete (RA) again brings up the important matter of how can it be said that the Verse is talking about the necessity of people to enter Islam, while it addresses the Muslims as well; or how is it possible that the invitation to accept Islam is extended to the Muslims as well. But the exegete says (only for us to have some understanding of this matter) that this is akin to how a king would say that the laws of his country are applicable to all of his subjects, and whosoever obeys them will receive a reward for his obedience, regardless of whether he was earlier a friend or a foe.
o In this example above, it is obvious that the friend has always been in the favor of the King, but with a declaration such as this hypothetical one, the king is saying that the reward is based on obedience to the laws and adherence to them, not based on any personal preference or bias towards those whom the king likes – thus, the foe and the criminal can very well become an obedient friend if he reforms his ways and enters into the obedience of the proper laws of the nation.
o There is yet another misconception that might arise in the minds of some people, when they see that only belief in Allah and the Day of Judgment are (supposedly) mentioned as being the only and sufficient criteria for salvation. Certain so-called reformers think that this literally means that no other article of faith is to be held compulsory to the belief of the Muslim, and/or necessary in order to attain salvation.
o However, as the exegete (RA) points out, the truth about Allah an the Day of Judgment are mentioned only in the Holy Books which Allah sent to mankind through the intermediary of the angels to His chosen Prophets and Messengers. What happens, in fact, is that the belief in Allah and in the Day of Judgment are respectively the first and the last points of belief for the believer, so it is a succinct way to say that the true believer must hold on to the first point, the last point, and all points of belief in between, in order to attain salvation. This much cannot be confusing to the sincere discerning mind. [If someone were to say that there are so many things in addition to the belief in these 5 (actually 6) pillars of faith, we say that this goes into the issue of how true knowledge has been transmitted down to our age, but this is a topic outside the present scope of discussion].
o There is another doubt that may come up, which is associated with this point above: Some people might claim that belief in Allah is something that does not require a revelation, and that in fact this is the position of a great number of Muslim theologians; based on this, they might ask that from whence then does this condition of believing in Prophets, Angels, etc., come into the picture.
o In here I will give only the answer I know of, and perhaps a more detailed and proper response may come in the future: To begin with, there are those points of belief that are necessarily true regardless of the normal (or extraordinary) operation of the Universe. The belief in Allah the Exalted is from within this sphere of beliefs. But there are some other points of belief that are connected to ‘normally impossible things’, and these are also necessary for a Muslim to believe in. The fact that the rule of ‘miracles’ is applied (or connected) with such truths does not diminish the fact that we as Muslims must believe in them.
o So when we can deduce from a number of truths that what a certain person has brought forth is actually a miracle [a Mu’jiza], we must follow this person who has proved his Prophethood through the obvious event that he has brought forth, an we must follow him with regards to all matters of belief, jurisprudence, etc.
o The only issue that remains for those of us who live centuries after the Prophet’s ﷺ arrival is exactly what information transmitted from him is taken as indisputable and which one is taken as formally probabilistic (knowing that there are different levels of probability). And as we know, the belief in angels, Prophets, the revelations of Allah to mankind, etc., all fall into the ‘indisputable matters of belief’ category.
o And there is one more thing I wish to mention, which is that to begin with, this Verse (2:61) is not saying that these 2 articles of faith [belief in Allah and in the Last Day] are absolutely the only 2 articles that one needs to adhere to. Rather, these are among the articles of faith, without there being any grammatical particle or phrase in the honorable Ayah that would make us think of a strict restriction in this regard. [It is in fact non-issues such as this one that the enemies of Islam bring up in order to try and confuse the Muslims, by saying that for example in this Verse only 2 articles are mentioned and in another Verse 3 or 4 other articles of belief are mentioned, and that these two Verses must inextricably be in contradiction. But this is not at all the case, the contradiction only exists in the mind of the objector, while a very simple reflection upon the true content and context of the Verses would show that it does not contradict anything else mentioned in the Qur’an or in the correct Ahadeeth].
Verse 63: Commentary
o This Verse recalls the incidents of Musa (AS) receiving the Torah, and the seventy men of the Israelites being told by Allah Himself that this was the Book He had indeed revealed for their guidance. Only after this amazing series of events did these seventy people bear witness to the Divine origin of the Torah [what was not mentioned in here is that Allah killed and resurrected these men due to their insolent demand to see Allah, along with the subsequent Mercy that He had on Musa (AS) insofar as their resurrection was concerned].
o Anyway, even with this amazing set of events, these men returned to the Israelites at large and added something that was not in the Torah, namely the stipulation that Allah would forgive them if they were unable to follow the (rather strict and rigorous) injunctions contained therein. It was due to this invented loophole that the Israelites began to feign that the whole of the rules in the Torah were too hard for them, and that they would not follow any of the rules at all. It was at this point that the angels raised the Tur Mountain over the heads of the Israelites as a threat that if they did not follow the rules of Allah, they would be totally crushed by this mountain.
o One thing we see in here is that Allah may [and does] decree whatever set of rules He wishes for whoever, and at whatever time and place. It so happened that the demeanor and inner state of the Israelites called for a set of ‘harsher’ or ‘more rigorous’ rules, but it is not necessary that Allah’s rules and injunctions be ‘easy’ according to our currently held view.
o Of course, let it be known that the Islamic religion is in fact very easy compared to previous Shariahs [and the Prophet ﷺeven called it the al-Hanaafiyya as-Samhaa], but many a times, when we are in discussions with modern-day non-Muslims, we must bring out this point of the possibility for Allah to legislate ‘harsh’ or ‘strict’ rules. This in fact has to do much more with the hedonistic permissiveness we see in the modern world, and it has nothing to do with “unjust laws” being legislated by Allah [it is, of course, impossible to attribute injustice to Allah, but this angle of the discussion is brought up since so many people just cannot get past their own desires and self-made rules and regulations, so they must be formally spoken to about what is really possible to attribute to Allah and what is not possible (or say, logically untenable) to attribute to Him.]
o Next, there is a doubt that has to be dealt with. It is something that comes up a lot nowadays, and which might come up in connection with this Verse: The Qur’an mentions that force should not be used to make a man change his religion, while in here it seems that force is indeed being used. But this is a false analogy, since in the case under discussion, the Israelites had willingly accepted Musa (AS) as the Prophet of Allah amongst them, had made the covenant with Allah, but were now turning on their heels. Their position was now one of being rebels, and the punishment that Allah threatened to unleash on them was tied to their persistent rebellion.
o The exegete (RA) mentions that even in a secular state, those who openly rebel against the state are treated quite differently from resident aliens or even enemies from the outside [capital punishment is mentioned here in the Tafseer, but even if that is not the punishment applied in the secular state, there are definitely punishments for ideologically refusing to obey the rules of a country]. Anyway, the exegete (RA) says that this is why an outright disbeliever is not condemned to capital punishment, but only an apostate is thus condemned.
o A couple of points that I would like to make: First of all, the Verse indicating that force cannot be used to compel one to follow the true religion has been explained differently by different scholars. Of course, Mufti Usmani (RA) is following the interpretation of the Hanafi school in here, but we are mentioning the existence of other valid interpretations in passing, so that no one thinks that the ‘Ulama are unaware of other Tafseers or that there is an attempt to hide something, etc.
o Another point concerns the issue of secular states. I know that many people will try to connect the issue of apostasy with curtailing a person’s freedom of thought and action; but even if we consider the most permissive of societies, even they have their own set of rules and regulations, whether written down formally or understood to be so by informal convention. The issue is that if someone explicitly acts in a way implying that he has no respect or consideration for the rules governing the land, it is clear that such a person will have problems remaining in that society, no matter how permissive or ‘progressive’ that nation says it is. Sure, it may not always lead to capital punishment [or it may rarely lead to this], but there will undoubtedly be some problems for those who make it a point to engage in an explicitly illegal activity in order to make an overarching social or political statement. This reality was the case before the advent of Islam and after its coming as well, and this is not so much an issue of freedom of thought or action as it is a drier issue of juridical due process, the question of ‘constitutional supremacy’ and other abstract, law-related matters.
Verse 64: Commentary
o This Verse now indicates that even with all of these supernatural bounties, events, and even threats, the Israelites went against the covenant they had taken with Allah. Allah, in His Mercy, did not utterly destroy them in this world [even though it would have been quite expected], although the Israelites will have to answer for their misdeeds in the Hereafter.
o The exegete (RA) again reminds us that the Mercy of Allah is of two types. One of them is general, encompassing disbelievers and believers alike, as (for example), in the shape of worldly benefits and prosperity. There is also a special Mercy of Allah, which will be manifested only to the believers, and this refers to bliss and salvation for the believers in the Hereafter.
o One important point is made here, which is that the Jews living at the time of the Prophet ﷺ seem to be the addressees in this Verse. If someone asks as to how this can be so, the answer is that believing in his ﷺ Prophethood is also a part of the Covenant. So, in effect, Allah is reminding the Jews that even though they are still breaking the Covenant by not following Muhammad ﷺ, yet Allah has turned with His Mercy towards them, rather than punishing them, in the way that He had punished other nations of this world.
o Some commentators have also noted that this Mercy from Allah has come with His sending of Muhammad ﷺ to the worlds, in that no more catastrophic punishments are to descend on people after his ﷺ coming.
Verses 65-66: Commentary
o Now, there is a mention of an earlier group of transgressors from among the Jews – in order to truly emphasize the Mercy of Allah upon the Jews contemporaneous to the Prophet ﷺ. It talks about an episode that occurred during the time of Daawud (AS), when the people who had violated the Sabbath by catching fish on that day meant only for worship were turned into apes and swine. It is mentioned that they all died after three days. The exegete (RA) brings up a Hadeeth in this regard, which mentions the fact that when Allah changes people into beasts as a punishment for their disobedience, their ‘race’ comes to an end, and they do not reproduce.
o There is one important footnote, mentioning that there are certain so-called “reformers” who claim that the metamorphosis of these Jews into apes and swine was not a true, physical change, but rather only a transformation of their “inner states” into that of apes and swine on a psychological plane. But this figurative interpretation has no connection with the internal text of the Qur’an (and of the Ahadeeth talking about this incident), and is obviously an attempt to placate a certain audience by denying what comes through indisputable meanings as being a physical change. If the change was meant to be only psychological, then these disobedient Jews had already demonstrated the traits of pigs and apes [so the question is, what was there to change, if they were already psychologically akin to beasts?]
o Another strange thing from these “reformers” is that they are willing and ready to accept the evolution theory [which basically says that there were physical ancestors of humans, and that these were basically lowly creatures of different forms and types], but yet these same people cringe when the Qur’an literally mentions metamorphosis of humans to beasts, even though both of these postulation are equally possible [that is, from the abstract mental perspective, before consideration of what the primary Islamic sources are telling us.]
o What I personally feel is that such people really have to think about their situation, whether their interpretations and conclusions are done with the intention of following the proper Usool of Islam in its entirety, or whether they are basically pigeon-holing the text to give it a certain meaning while ignoring the true rules of exegesis. This is the very important lesson for all of us to consider, since it really does stand at the crossroads between truth and falsehood, may Allah bring us closer to the truth.
o Coming back to this Verse, we see that the episode served as a deterrent and a lesson for other Jews at that time. For the disobedient Jews, it was a deterrent in order to persuade them to repent from the sins, while for the obedient Jews, it was a confirmatory lesson that they should remain steadfast upon obedience of their Shariah.
o One thing I would like to personally mention and remind everyone is that the Islamic Shariah is definitely much easier than what many people presume nowadays, and in the case of the Sabbath we have an important example: We see that for the Muslims, one only has to attend the Friday prayer, but otherwise there are no additional restrictions on what he may or may not do on that day. In fact, the Qur’an explicitly states the going about in the land after the culmination of the Friday prayer (in order to seek the provisions from what Allah has given). But in the law of the Sabbath, only prayer and devotion to God were permissible, and we see that Judaism has a very complicated set of rules for what may or may not be done on this ‘holy day’ of theirs. [Of course, we are not talking about the casual or ethnic Jews, but about the observant Jews]. This is also why the Qur’an mentions that the unlettered Prophet ﷺ has come in order to free them from the shackles that they have been fettered with [meaning that the more strict laws are now being relaxed, but they would obviously have to accept the Prophet ﷺwho has come with this relaxation. If they do not accept him, the pain and problems will be theirs in both this world and in the next.] So we have to remember the great Mercy that Allah has shown us in this respect, and always give thanks to Allah for all of His Favors.
Injunctions and related considerations
o So we know about what happened to this group of Jews in this case. But we need to consider what certain “modernists” say of slanders against the ‘Ulamaa of Islam, by saying that the ‘Ulamaa have invented Hiyal [stratagems, tricks] in order to help the rich and powerful ones to get away with basically wholesale violations of the Shariah.
o However, this vituperation comes about due to playing around with the Arabic word Heelah in a way that strips it of its technical context and only highlights its everyday meaning of stratagem or trick. In Fiqh, Heelah refers to a device for giving legitimacy to an action in a contingency by making certain modifications in it, so that it conforms to the Shariah. Rather than giving leeway to the rich and powerful to bypass the Shariah, it is a way to help people to conform to the Shariah in a situation where they would have otherwise not been able to remain within its bounds.
o And one additional point is that the Prophet ﷺ himself suggested a device for avoiding the (unlawful) direct bartering of two commodities by indicating that the equivalent amount of money could be employed for buying and selling such commodities. So there is no way that certain devices may indeed fall within the limits of the Shariah, and there should be no doubt about this in anyone’s mind.
o Additionally, a consideration of the present Verse will help us to understand the difference between a Sharia-based Heelah and a mockery of the Shariah. What has come down to us of the commentary of this Verse is that these Jews would tie one end of a cord to the tail of the fish in the water on Saturdays, and on Sundays they would come and take the fish out of the water and eat it. It is clear that this is a case of making fun of the Sharia wholesale.
Verse 67: Commentary
o It is mentioned in one of the commentaries of Ahaadeeth that this Verse refers to an incident when a man killed the father of a girl he wanted to marry, and then disappeared. It is also said that Allah had not yet sent the Israelites any injunctions about how to deal with cases of murder, and if true, this would show that the incident occurred before the revelation of the Torah.
o Whatever the case may be, the Israelites pleaded with Musa (AS) to be shown who the culprit was, but when the Divine Injunction came, they started disputing and raising objections.
Verses 68-71: Commentary
o These Verses show that the Israelites were disposed towards asking unnecessary questions and disputing without any reason, and due to this, the conditions imposed upon them with regards to the cow they were to slaughter became more and more stringent.
o And here, I want to personally add something important. The Shias claim that most of the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ were akin to the Israelites, always doubting and raising unnecessary questions. But if we ponder upon the laws of the Jewish religion, and those of Islam, we see that the Islamic laws are much easier and flexible in comparison to those of the Jews. This is, in itself, an indication that Allah chose for the Prophet ﷺ those followers and Companions who were not rude, did not doubt unnecessarily, did not raise objections against his pronouncements, and so on and so forth. [Now, we do see certain situations in the Ahadeeth which seem to point to such things, but when we see the totality of the Islamic Sharia, we see that it is much simpler than the Sharai’ of other nations, and this is an indication that the followers of Muhammad ﷺ have been blessed with an easier way of life due to their meekness and obedience of Allah’s rules and regulations. Or to put it in another way, Allah willed to make the last Ummah the most obedient one towards His Decrees and simultaneously gave them the easier rules, so as to “reward” them in this world for their natural disposition].
Verses 72-73: Commentary
o The exegete (RA) mentions that the murderer had his supporters, who began accusing different people of having perpetrated the crime. However, Allah willed for this matter to become clear to all in a miraculous way, which was for a part of the meat of this sacrificial cow to be touched against the dead man’s body; by means of this, the dead man came to life, announced his killer, and died again.
o This incident is used in the Qur’an as an example in order for those who deny the Resurrection to ponder and reflect about the truth of the Last Day: For just as Allah brought a person back to life in the past, He can do the same on a much larger scale (i.e. the whole of humanity) in the future as well. The exegete (RA) next answers an important objection (in fact two objections) that may crop up in the minds of some: They ask that since Allah is Omnipotent, what was the point of this man’s ‘resurrection’ being tied to the sacrifice of the cow? And this has two subsections, one being that the name of the dead man could come out in any other way, and/or that there was no need for sacrificing a cow in order to bring the dead person back to life.
o But the answer to this is that the raison d’être for every action of Allah does not necessarily need to be known to us, and that in such instances, the proper approach to take is to accept what Allah and His Prophets (Alayhimaa Salaam) have brought and keep silence about what we cannot comprehend.
o And of course, as I have mentioned before, this is the way of safety, since otherwise, the person might be overcome with endless devilish whispers (waswasa) that may affect his faith. Rather, what one should do is to praise Allah at every moment, recognize His Majesty, and know that Allah is absolutely under no ‘obligations’ to create a certain Universe [or a certain ‘State of the Universe’] or to command (or not to command) a certain set of laws, but rather, he does whatever He Wills.
o There is another issue to keep in mind, and that is that the incident in Verse 72 is in fact a continuation of the narration begun in Verses 67-71, even though the incident in Verse 72 is before that of Verses 67-71. The inversion of the chronological order serves to indicate that both misdeeds (that is, committing a murder and trying to hide it, as well as raising endless objections against Allah’s injunctions) are both egregious sins. Without this inversion, the reader may have supposed that only murder and attempts to hide it are horrible sins, not raising objections against Allah’s orders (or they may have thought it to be a sin of a much lower rank, while this is not in fact the case).
Injunctions and related considerations
o There is one point we have to remember in here: Normally, only proper evidence (i.e. live eyewitnesses to the murder) would be acceptable to establish the Hadd punishment. In this story, what happened was that Allah inspired Musa (AS) that the dead would speak the truth upon coming back to life- for there is no guarantee of the incident being a miracle unless the Prophet in question knows that the truth will indeed come out through the amazing incident.
Verse 74: Commentary
o As we saw from the previous Verses, Allah has been relating a number of incidents that transpired to the Israelites, and mentions that their hearts became hardened more and more after all of these amazing things transpired – even though one would expect them to become humbled after witnessing such things. Of course, such degeneracy led to further transgressions and misdeeds, for which Allah informs us that He will punish them.
o The contrast is made between the hearts of the Israelites and stones, and what is said about stones is that some of them give a lot of water, others give a small quantity of water, while others do not give water, yet they fall down from their places due to their fear of Allah.
o We know concerning the first two states, but with regards to the third state, there may be a doubt in the minds of some, since fear would seem to require reason and sensibility, both of which depend on life. Now, concerning reason, we see that animals show fear, even though they are not ‘reasonable’ per se. With regards to sensibility and life, we say that minerals such as rocks possess a subtle life that may exist, even though it is imperceptible to the typical human. The exegete (RA) mentions that scientists have found out certain signs of life and sensibility in minerals. And from a number of Ahaadeeth and stories of the pious people of former and later times, we see that pebbles, stones and trees did Tasbeeh (glorification of Allah), showed certain emotions, and other similar issues proving the actualization of their inherent life and sensibility.
o Also, not all stones fall down due only to the fear of Allah, but there may be purely physical reasons for the fall of the majority of stones.
o The exegete (RA) mentions that there is a subtle point made in the order in which this Verse presents the types of stones. The highest level belongs to those stones from which rivers gush forth, giving sustenance to men and animals. There are others from which water flows from them after they break open, and the lowest level in fact is of those stones that only ‘fear’ Allah and due to this fear fall down. The comparison is made with the hearts of Jews mentioned above, in that they are worse than stone-hearted, the reason being that stones in fact do have qualities of softness in them, as mentioned in the Verse.
Verse 75 (Commentary)
o We see that the Muslims were disturbed that the Jews were not embracing Islam. But this Verse comforts the Muslims, explaining that they should not worry, since the Jews had, beforehand, committed the huge sin of disturbing the Word of Allah after having heard it and knowing the vileness of such a deed. Thus, the Muslims should understand that anyone so enslaved to his own desires cannot be expected to embrace the truth when it comes to them.
o The `Word of Allah’ in here refers either to the Torah or to the words of Allah that He had made 70 men from among the Israelites hear during the time of Musa (AS). The distortion may refer to the changing of words or the change in the well-known signification of the words. In the case of the 70 men, it was their telling the Israelites at large that they would be forgiven if they could not keep up with Allah’s Orders, which was totally untrue.
o And to the issue as to why the Jews in the Prophet’s ﷺ were being referred to in this Verse, it is due to their tacit approval of what their forefathers did. After all, the accent in Judaism for membership is an eclectic mix of belief and ancestry, so much so that a person may be an atheist and yet be a ‘Jew’ if the biological conditions are met.
Verse 76 (Commentary)
o There were those among the Jews who outwardly professed Islam while secretly clinging to Judaism. This Verse highlights their private conversations, the open Jews reprimanding the ‘undercover Jews/hypocrites’ as to why they were disclosing some of the passages of the Torah foretelling the coming of the Prophet ﷺ, as this would prove useful to the Muslims in their arguments against the Jews.
o One note: See how the Qur’an is divulging the secret counsels of people opposed to the Prophet ﷺ, and this is something impossible to conceive could be fabricated, since there was no way that he ﷺ could know what people were telling each other in private, unless Allah informed him of it.
Verses 77-79 (Commentary)
o In these Verses, Allah reiterates His Omniscience and that He knows of what the hypocrites among the Jews are hiding – of their infidelity, or of the Verses of the Torah talking about the advent of the Prophet (SAW).
o The above Verses also speak concerning the unlettered ones among the Jews, who did not get the correct knowledge from the Jewish scholars, and thus they were happy with whatever fables and deficient information was provided to them.
o Of course, the crime of the scholars amongst the Jews was much greater, which is why Allah mentions the severe punishment for those who misinterpret the Divine Injunctions, change the words of God, and seek money and respect through their actions.
A doctrinal point
o We see that Verse 78 uses the word Thann (sometimes translated as ‘fanciful superstition’) and says that the Jews follow this. Some people have sad that one is not allowed to base any injunction whatsoever on Thann. But this is not the only lexical meaning the Qur’an uses for this word. It also uses it for: 1) Signifying perfect certitude (Verse 2:46); 2) Signifying the greater likelihood (Verse 12:42); 3) Signifying a fanciful supposition (as in the present Verse).
o We can say that this third meaning of ‘Thann’ is not to be followed, but that the second one is not to be discarded since one cannot avoid this kind of Thann in any sphere of life, and the Shariah is about the practical, real life, not about a fanciful utopia where everyone agrees with everyone else basically about everything.
o Verse 80 (Commentary): Here is the refutation of the Jewish claim that they would be sent to Hellfire only for a few days, if at all, for the sins they committed in this world. This declaration of theirs was based on the false assumption that ‘Isa and Muhammad (Alayhimaa As-Salaam) were false Prophets, and this was obviously untrue. So yes, the believers are taken out of Hellfire after a while -but no one can say what amount of time that will be, and it obviously differs from person to person– but denying the true Prophets of Allah, or denying anything of what they brought is classified as disbelief that makes the holder of such disbelief liable to Eternal Punishment.
o Verses 81-82 (Commentary): Now, the general Divine Law is laid down, which is basically that those who commit sins willingly and knowingly will be among the people of eternal torment [an indication that evil has completely taken hold of them]; while those who believe in Islam and do good deeds are people of Eternal Paradise.
o The explanation of this is that the infidel (Kaafir) has no good deeds at all, since evil has taken hold of him – even if he did ‘good’ this would not be counted, due to their lack of faith. But, the believer has his good deeds, plus he has the ‘enabling agent’ which is the Imaan in his heart – and which is in fact a good deed higher in the sight of Allah than all other good deeds combined.
o We are reminded again that for the Jews, belief in ‘Isa and Muhammad (SAW) was and is obligatory, and there is no way that Jews can be saved or gain a reprieve while disbelieving in these 2 great Prophets of Allah, and following the Shariah brought by Muhammad (SAW) as the final approved code of Divine Injunctions.
o Verse 83 (Commentary): This Verse speaks about those few who faithfully followed the Shariah of Musa (AS) until it was abrogated by the coming of Muhammad (SAW).
Injunctions and Related Considerations
o (1) This Verse alludes to that which is generally common to all revealed Sharai’: Tawheed [obviously, since it is the basis of everything else], service to one’s parents, relations, orphans, the needy, gentle speech towards all humans, Salaah and Zakaat (these last two in the general sense, of course).
o (2) That one should adopt a gentle tone in addressing people, whether they are on the correct path or far from it. Yet, one should never hide the truth for the sake of pleasing others. Thus, Musa and Haarun (AS) were ordered to convey the truth to the Pharaoh, but to do so in a gentle tone.
o A very important consideration is that Pharaoh was the worst of persons, and Musa (AS) one of the best ever, yet Allah did not allow Musa (AS) to shout and to be immoderate in speech, even though the difference between them spiritually was so huge; yet, gentleness in speech was to be employed.
o So what about most of us today, who are immoderate in speech, and shout at our friends and relatives. Most shocking is that we even shout at those whom Allah has placed above us [older siblings, parents, older relatives, teachers, etc.], so how do we expect any goodness to come into our lives when our comportment is like this? This is something we need to think about very deeply and something we must definitely rectify in our lives.
o We also see that this injunction was applied (in its own way) to the unorthodox ones from among the Muslims – if one is to talk politely to Jews and Christians, then what about those who have Bid’ah in their practices or beliefs, yet are within the fold of Islam? (Yes, it is a blameworthy thing to have innovations in one’s beliefs, but if the strength of the deviation is not so much as to put one’s belief in danger, one cannot treat the other side as if their pronouncements are heresy, etc. This is obviously a matter that may need to be asked about and discussed with higher level scholars, but in here we are just considering one angle of it, that of how to approach and talk to those people who are disagreeing with us).
o Verse 84 (Commentary): The present Verse continues the previous one in its purport, saying that the Israelites took a pledge not to kill each other in civil war nor to exile people from their communities. And one important facet of this pledge was that it was taken explicitly and was not of the ‘implicit’ type, where equivocation or ambiguity may have been pleaded as an excuse.
o Verse 85 (Commentary): This Verse recounts that the Israelites had made the pledges spoken of in the above Verse (#84) plus the pledge to ransom any men amongst them who may have become a prisoner of war. However, the Jews contemporary to the prophet (SAW) only implemented this last injunction and ignored the first two.
o The background of this story is as follows: As we know, in pre-Islamic Madeenah there were the two main tribes of ‘Aws and Khazraj (who were enemies to one another and would routinely fight each other), and the Jewish tribes of Banu Qurayza and Banu Nadheer who lived in the environs of Madeenah. The first Jewish tribe sided with the ‘Aws, and the Banu Nadheer sided with the Khazraj. And as we know, there would be slaughter and prisoners taken after every confrontation. The Jews of each tribe would work hard on their respective non-Jewish allies in order to secure release of their prisoners, but they would not refrain from helping their allies in battle.
o Obviously, going to battle is the more egregious sin, since there would be no killing of Jews, and no prisoners of war taken from amongst them in the first place, if there was no participation in these battles.
o Just as an aside that I think is important: We can see how Allah constantly relates to us the stories of previous nations for our own rectification. And Allah knows best, but a number of Muslims today also seem to exhibit some of these characteristics, and perhaps even worse than what is mentioned in this Verse about the Jews. This is because a number of Muslims have set up allegiances with non-Muslim polities, and Muslims do go to war on behalf of or with the assistance of the non-Muslims, and at times Muslims are killed, injured, rendered homeless, etc. And perhaps the worst thing is that we do not even seek to get relief for the captured and refugees of the Muslims, regardless of which side of the conflict they might be on. The issues related to the Fiqh of warfare and in what circumstances can a Muslim take the help of a non-Muslim in battle are there, but in here we are talking about the current age, when the Muslims have very little viability as an “organized Ummah” and that emotional attachment to being part of an organized nation and whatever is related to “helping out one’s countryman” is definitely missing from too many Muslims.
o I would say again, Allah knows best whether it is true or not, but even anathematizations (edicts of Takfeer) are handed out because a person belongs to a certain party, works for a certain government, has the nationality of a certain country, and so on. In this way, it would seem as if the sin of killing a Muslim is bypassed by declaring that he is in fact not a Muslim in the first place, and that his blood may be lawfully shed in warfare.
o Anyway, this is obviously a very, very sensitive topic, and it has many nuances, there are a large number of refutations and counter-refutations that can be made, but it should be done under the auspices of an academically-oriented mindset, and also keeping in mind the sanctity of the Muslims and of human beings at large– which is a very important point in our religion.
o Anyway, coming back to this issue of the Jews, we see that they were infringing firstly upon the rights of Allah by disobeying Him, and also upon the rights of the individuals, by inflicting pain and loss on them. They are reprimanded for accepting some injunctions of the Torah and rejecting others. And the truth is that in both cases, they were following their own desires, especially since it was the ‘ease’ of carrying out the ‘injunction’ that motivated them towards obeying or disobeying.
o Again, there is a lesson from this for us Muslims as well, given the fact that many people today unfortunately follow their own whims and desires when choosing a ruling. Of course, the excuses people come up with are intellectually quite novel, such as their saying that the ‘Maqaasid’ of the Shariah have to be considered above and beyond the conclusions any jurist may have